Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing extra news, notes and analysis from each game. Boston defeated Detroit, 96-85, in the home opener on Friday night.
For one night, they looked like the Boston Celtics of old. Or at least, the Celtics of a couple seasons ago. Nevermind the fact that they were playing the lowly Detroit Pistons, or that it was the only game they have won this season. On Friday night, the Celtics looked like a very good basketball team.
What caused such a drastic turnaround? Well, for starters, they were playing a bad teams -- one that they should be able to beat easily even on an off night. However, the same could have been said about the game against the New Orleans Hornets, which Boston lost in blowout fashion. While the opponent helped, the Celtics played much better basketball.
Celtics' Offense Gets The Job Done Right
Boston shot 52.2 percent from the floor (35-for-67) and made 7-of-16 three pointers while going a perfect 19-for-19 at the free throw line. The Celtics had 25 assists while only coughing the ball up 10 times. Boston was led by Jermaine O'Neal, who scored 19 points and had seven rebounds. JO's 19 points were the most he has ever scored as a member of the C's. They didn't reach the 104- or 107-point plateau that they did in the first two games, but Boston executed very well on the offensive end and built a big lead by the end of the third quarter, allowing for their starters to get much-needed rest. After their struggles on offense against the Hornets, it was an encouraging performance to say the least.
Jermaine O'Neal, Offense Guru (OK, Not Really)
Where in the world did that game come from? O'Neal was expected to be a defensive stopper when he signed with the Celtics last offseason, and any offense was seen as an added bonus. Yet tonight, O'Neal led the team's scoring charge. We're talking about a team that boasts players like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. How did this happen? O'Neal attributed the success to extended minutes, saying that the longer he is out there, the more comfortable he can get. It's very unlikely that Boston can get a similar performance out of JO every night. But if they can, then look out.
The Truth Returns And Sets The Celtics Free
He's baaack. Paul Pierce returned to action for the first time this season after battling a bruised right heel that kept him out of almost all of training camp and the Celtics' first three games of the season. Pierce finished with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds in 22 minutes. Those certainly weren't his usual team-leading numbers on offense, but considering that he has had almost no time to practice and hasn't seen any game action, that is very impressive. Pierce will ease back into playing time, and in the meantime, expect him to have better performances each and every game.
Bottom Line: Pistons or not, this was an impressive win. People were starting to question the Celtics' ability to compete this season after losing their first three games. Boston really needed a win to silence the critics (for the moment), and they got it tonight. The offense was solid, the defense was better and the team morale definitely increased after notching the all-important first win of the season. Who knows what is in store for the rest of the season, but right now, fans should be encouraged after what they saw on Friday night.
Next Up: Boston travels to our nation's capital to take on the Washington Wizards in a home-and-home series, beginning with a game in Washington D.C. on New Year's Day. After that, the Celtics will return home to host the Wizards on Monday night.