Shaq powers Celtics past Nets, 89-83

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Shaq powers Celtics past Nets, 89-83

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

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

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

BOSTON –  Late in the fourth quarter, the TD Garden was rockin' when the fans charted chanting, 'M-V-P, M-V-P' which is become a nightly serenade of sorts for Isaiah Thomas. 

It's extremely wishful thinking on Celtics Nation's part, but there is no denying his status as one of the game's best players this season. 

He delivered yet another work of art on Monday, scoring 17 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter in leading Boston to a 108-98 win against Charlotte. 

And he did the way he always seems to do it, mixing in 3-pointers with drives to the baskets and an occasional assist to keep the collapsing defenses that surround him relatively honest. 

But the numbers he's consistently posting only tell part of the narrative to what has been a fairy tale of a season for the 5-foot-9 guard who continues to defy odds on a nightly basis. 

Not only is he producing at a high level, but he's elevating the play of those around him which is reflected in the team's overall success.

Boston (26-15) hits the halfway point with its best record under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens and best by the franchise since a 32-9 start to the 2010-2011 season.

The Celtics have now won eight of their last 10 games, and 13 of 16 as they steadily pull away and establish themselves at worst being the third-best team in the East.

And against the Hornets, they got the victory with a nice blending of what they do best – shoot three-pointers and play solid, physical defense.

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Boston Celtics, opening with a 10-2 run that put the Hornets on their heels quickly.

Not surprisingly, the Hornets rallied to take the lead in the first quarter before Boston’s second unit stepped up.

Leading the way in the final minute of the first quarter was Jaylen Brown, just minutes removed from a moving pre-game speech honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on MLK Day.

With Boston trailing 30-29, Brown scored the final five points of the quarter to give Boston a 34-30 lead.

The second quarter saw both teams pull ahead by slim margins, neither showing an ability to pull away and take full control of the game.

But again it was the Celtics making all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor in the closing moments.

Trailing 50-48, Boston would close out the half with an 11-3 run to lead 59-53 at the half.

In the third quarter, Boston began to give itself a little more breathing room fueled in large part by their defense which not only limited the Hornets scoring but took advantage of great spacing to get open jumpers or baskets in the paint with little resistance or help-side defense.

A back-to-the-basket hook shot by Al Horford gave Boston a 77-67 lead, the game’s first double-digit margin.

The Celtics increased their lead to 12 points following a pull-up jumper along the baseline by Avery Bradley who was back in the lineup after missing the previous four games with an Achilles injury.

Going into the fourth, the Celtics were ahead 80-71.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get a boost from their bench

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get a boost from their bench

BOSTON –  Questions about Boston’s second unit have lingered all season.

But in the first half of Monday’s game against Charlotte, the Celtics got a major boost from the second unit which paved the way for Boston’s 59-53 lead at the half.

They outscored their Charlotte brethren 21-10 which was instrumental in them fending off an always-tough Charlotte team despite the Hornets (20-20) coming in having lost four in a row – all on the road.

Boston opened with a 10-2 run, the kind of spurt that you knew would likely be followed at some point by a comparable run by the Hornets.

On cue, Charlotte began to chip away at Boston’s lead and eventually went ahead following a pair of Kemba Walker free throws with 3:39 to play.

The teams went back and forth until Boston’s Jaylen Brown, who delivered a moving pre-game speech in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, took over the game with less than a minute to play in the first.

Trailing 30-29, Brown scored the quarter’s final five points to lift Boston to a 34-30 lead going into the second quarter.

In the second quarter, it was Kelly Olynyk – another Celtics reserve - taking over with a slew of baskets and hustle plays including saving a ball from going out of bounds in front of the Charlotte bench and tossing it up court with the Celtics ultimately getting a lay-up from Brown.

With 7:24 to play in the half, Charlotte called a time-out with the Celtics leading 45-40.

The Hornets responded with an 8-3 spurt to tie the game at 48 following a dunk by Spencer Hawes which led to Brad Stevens looking for answers during a Celtics time-out with 5:18 to play in the half.

Boston’s starters eventually returned to the floor in the second quarter and seemingly picked up where their backups left off.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Kemba Walker

There was a definite sense of urgency on Walker’s part to do what he could to lead the Hornets out of their four-game funk. He did his part in the first half, scoring 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.

Al Horford

This was one of the better first halves offensively we’ve seen from Al Horford this season. He led the Celtics with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field.

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

With what looked like an increased emphasis to get the ball to Horford, Thomas played the role of the other scorer and didn’t disappoint. He had 13 points in the first half along with three assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk was assertive both on the perimeter and around the basket. And the results by and large, were positive. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with five rebounds and three assists.

Jaylen Brown

He provided a major lift at the end of the first quarter, which is when he scored five of his seven first-half points.

Marvin Williams

He gave Boston problems both inside the paint as well as on the perimeter as he tallied 12 points which included a pair of 3-pointers.

 

DUDS

Cody Zeller

His job is to roll to the rim, defend and rebound. He seemed to struggle in all three phases in the first half. He had three points and three rebounds, but when he was on the floor the Hornets had a plus/minus of -7.