By Jessica Camerato
BOSTON - It was an improbable scene. Shaquille O'Neal stepped to the free-throw line for two shots with the Celtics down by two points in the fourth quarter.
He made both.
It was that kind of night for O'Neal, who dominated the game with 25 points and 11 rebounds. More significantly, he shot 7-for-13 from the line, including 5-for-8 in the fourth.
Led by O'Neal's best performance as a Celtic, the C's beat the Nets, 89-83, and improved to 11-4 on the season.
"He looked like the 2000 Shaq," said Kevin Garnett. "He looked fresh tonight. He looked really good. I thought he did a great job of getting us in the bonus early. He definitely was the target tonight . . . On this team. night in and night out, we are going to have a different guy, from Paul Pierce to Ray Allen to anybody. And tonight it was Shaq."
But this victory wasn't without a downside.
Delonte West broke his right wrist after falling on a drive to the basket with 2:43 left in the second quarter. Coach Doc Rivers projects West could miss the entire regular season.
Witnessing West's injury makes Rivers more hesitant - not eager - to play the injured Rajon Rondo. He would much rather wait than risk his starting point guard aggravate his hamstring pull if he returns too soon.
"I'm serious about that," said Rivers. "Unless trainer Eddie Lacerte says he's feeling great, I just can't see it. And I know Rondo, so we're really going to have to have a long talk for him to play on Friday."
In spite being down two key players, the Celtics overcame a first-half push by the Nets to get the win.
The C's jumped out to a 18-17 first quarter lead thanks to eight points from O'Neal. They outscored the Nets 10-2 in the paint and looked to have the advantage down low.
But the Nets dominated the second quarter, 29-20, behind an 8-0 run. The Celtics were outrebounded, 8-4, and outscored 6-0, at the free-throw line. Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris combined for 21 points in the first half, which ended with the Nets in front, 46-38.
Down two guards in the second half, Marquis Daniels stepped in for 11 minutes and contributed 2 points, 2 steals, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and a blocked shot to spark the Celtics. They outscored the Nets, 23-17, to cut the deficit to two points entering the final 12 minutes.
"I thought he really changed the game," Pierce said of Daniels. "I thought his length really bothered the point guards. In the pick-and-roll, he was able to get over and under, switch it up, just showing his versatility, some of the things that he can do when he gets in the game."
The fourth quarter belonged to O'Neal. He electrified the Garden crowd with a dunk off a feed from Allen and provided constant energy on both ends of the court. He posted seven points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Nate Robinson sealed the victory with a 3-pointer to give the Celtics an 85-78 lead with less than a minute to go.
Pierce finished with 18 points while Allen scored 15. Harris led the Nets with 20 points and Morrow added 18.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato