For the third-straight game, the Celtics took to the court tonight against the Nets without starting point guard Rajon Rondo. Though he was clearly missed, Boston was able to prevail with an 89-83 victory.
Shaquille O'Neal led the way, recording a game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds. He was far and away Boston's most consistent player on the court tonight, converting on 9-10 field goal attempts.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen chipped in with 18 and 15 points respectively, though they only shot a combined 12-28 from the field.
Devin Harris led the Nets with 20 points. Anthony Morrow and Brook Lopez contributed with 18 and 16 points in New Jersey's losing effort.
The C's played mediocre basketball for the 1st half, managing to score only 38 points. The low-point of the half came just 2:47 before the break when Delonte West came down hard on his right wrist after converting a driving layup.
West immediately screamed out in pain and was cringing as trainer Ed Lacerte led him into the Boston locker room. The diagnosis is a broken wrist, but no timetable has been released. Hopefully he'll be back before the All-Star break. With Rondo out, Marquis Daniels took over at backup PG and Head coach Doc Rivers had to play Von Wafer for the first couple minutes of the 4th quarter.
Boston turned things around in the 2nd half. The Celtics rallied back to cut the New Jersey lead to just two points entering the final frame when Daniels slammed one home. 'Quis got the feed off a tricky no-look bounce pass from Pierce.
The C's carried that momentum into the 4th quarter and took a 67-65 lead with 9:11 left in regulation when Ray Allen found Shaq for an alley-oop on a fast break. That capped off O'Neal best performance in a Boston uniform, though it was only his 10th game in green. After the ferocious dunk, the crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden chanted, "SHAQ! SHAQ! SHAQ!"
Pierce caught fire late in the game as well, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the 2nd half as Boston pulled away. The Celtics won the 2nd half 51-33, and the game 89-83.
The Celts improve to 11-4, while the Nets fall to 5-10 on the season. Boston returns to the hardcourt Friday night, hosting the Toronto Raptors. Tipoff is at 7:30 PM.