Shaquille O'Neal played in his first game for the Celtics since February 1st tonight. Unfortunately for Boston, that return lasted all of five and a half minutes due to another injury as the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons 101-90 Sunday night at the TD Garden in Boston, MA.
Shaq made his return in the first quarter looking great and making an immediate impact. He gave the Celtics the offensive presence around the basket they've been missing the past two months -- scoring six points and hustling on both sides of the floor.
However, the worst possible scenario happened.
Shaq had to leave the game after coming up lame while sprinting across the court just a minute into the second quarter. He was helped to the locker room by Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte, who had to hold a hobbling Shaq up by the back of his shorts. It didn't look good as he apparently doubled over in pain and had to be put in a wheel chair.
Thankfully, it was not the Achilles that's kept O'Neal out for the past two months. Instead, the Celtics were calling it a strained calf muscle -- an injury that bugged Shaq earlier this season.
Father time strikes again.
The Celtics shot 64.1 percent from the field, the second best shooting night in the NBA this season. They also turned the ball over 21 times to the Pistons' nine.
Kevin Garnett scored a game-high 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting, reeling in eight rebounds. Paul Pierce was just behind with 22 points while pulling in six rebounds. Ray Allen seemed to have break out of his funk, making 5 of 6 shots on his way to 13 points. Rajon Rondo scored only four points but dished out 14 assists. Delonte West (10 points) and Glen Davis (11 points) also scored in double figures.
The Pistons put five players in double figures. They were led by Will Bynum with 20 points, Tayshaun Prince was just behind him with 16 points (13 of which came in the first quarter). Rip Hamilton scored 14 points.
The difference in the game was the third quarter.
The Pistons took a one point lead 14 seconds into the third, completing a 11-0 run spanning back to the second quarter. Yet the Celtics responded. Behind Garnett's 13 third quarter points, Pierce's eight, and a 13-0 run, the Celtics pulled away and opened up a 16 point lead. They headed to the fourth quarter leading 82-66.
The Celtics extended their lead to 18 points in the fourth and while the Pistons were able to climb within nine points three times, that was as close as they would come. Boston closed out the game, 101-90.
While the Celtics were busy pulling away in the second half, they were struggling to keep a lead in the first.
It was a close and bloody first quarter. Early in the game, as Ray Allen was driving to the basket, the back of his his head collided with Rip Hamilton's face mask. Blood ensued.
Despite 64.7 percent shooting in the first quarter, the Celtics couldn't pull away from the Pistons. Tayshaun Prince's 13 points in the opening frame helped keep Detroit on top heading into the second, 29-26.
After losing Shaq early in the second, the Celtics scored 11 straight points to open up a 10 point lead with 2:15 left in the game. However, the Piston answered back with nine points of their own in the final 1:46 to pull within just one, 49-48.
The Celtics shot 62.1% in the half yet still only led by one. Paul Pierce led Celtics scorers with 14 points at the half on 100-percent shooting, making all four field goals he attempted. Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons with 14 and was 3 of 3 from three-point range.
Boston improves to 53-23 on the season and next play the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night at the TD Garden.