Shaq's energy lifts Celtics over Pistons

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Shaq's energy lifts Celtics over Pistons

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- One of the benefits of having a 7-foot-1, 325-pound big man on a roster is the fact that he has big shoulders.

On Wednesday night, Shaquille ONeal used them to carry the Boston Celtics to victory over the Detroit Pistons.

The whole team was flat, he said. I just had to pick it up.

ONeal didnt like what he saw as the watched his team struggle against their 15-win opponents. After beating the Orlando Magic two nights earlier, he knew they were not playing up to their potential.

In a game with 13 ties and 12 lead changes, ONeal wanted the Celtics to put the Pistons away. When he checked back in with just over eight minutes to go, he made sure that happened.

We just try to go out and do whatever coach Doc Rivers asks, he said. I just tried to get every rebound, try to hustle, diving on the floor, just trying to get everybody going.

Over a span of five-and-a-half minutes, ONeal gave the Celtics the spark they needed to pull away with an 86-82 win.

He began with an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo and followed that with a layup 40 seconds later. He then picked off two steals and converted on a three-point play (a game-tying free throw, as a matter of fact), while grabbing three rebounds along the way.

By the time ONeal returned to the bench with 1:28 to go, the Celtics had erased an eight-point deficit and reclaimed momentum.

ONeal finished the night with 12 points and a season-high 12 rebounds.

I thought Shaq was the difference in the game with his energy, said Rivers. Forget his size and all that -- his size and energy. I thought Shaq was he won the game for us tonight. He did all the little things -- crashed the glass, was physical, blocked shots. He was absolutely wonderful tonight.

At 38 years old, ONeal was not run down by this kind of hustle. He played 25 minutes and felt energized on the floor.

Im in excellent shape, he said. Im only playing 19, 20 minutes a game. I could do that with my eyes closed. There really is no excuse for me to be tired. Im not really tired. Doc does a great job of managing my minutes. But we were down 10 and I just felt like I had to do something -- dive on the floor, knock people around, get the crowd involved, and I think that helped a little bit.

In spite of the win, ONeal is still critical of himself and his team. Thats how players constantly improve, after all. He is bothered that he missed two free throws in the fourth quarter -- But keep in mind, when we really, really, really need them, Ill be there and you wont have to worry about it. Studies show, he said -- and would like to see the Celtics come out swinging regardless of who they are playing.

We knew that we were out there messing around, not helping too much, not focused, he said. Its kind of hard getting up for teams like that. But if you want to win the whole thing, you have to get up for every game. We have to realize that teams are going to come in here and play way above their heads, and we have to be ready for that.

Fortunately for the Celtics, ONeal was prepared for victory when it counted.

It was a slow game, it was an ugly game, he said. I just wanted to do my part and try to get us close to where we would be able to win.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”