Even with the comeback win tonight, moving the Celtics to 11-4 on the season, the story that will rightfully grab headlines is Delonte West’s broken wrist. The Celtics guard, playing in just his fifth game of the season after serving a 10-game suspension, landed hard on a drive to the basket in the second quarter, bracing himself with his right wrist, which absorbed enough of the impact to break it. He was in considerable pain and quickly shuffled off to the locker room, from which he would not return.
Post-game, Doc Rivers didn’t sound optimistic about West’s wrist or any timeframe for his return.
“It’s broken for sure,” Rivers said. “Don’t know anything else more than that; a compound fracture most likely. But [it’s] going to be a long time, let’s just put it that way.”
The injury overshadowed a spirited second half comeback, after a slow start. Paul Pierce put up 18 points and Shaquille O’Neal dropped a Thanksgiving turkey-sized 25 points and 11 rebounds on the Nets, on 9-10 shooting from the floor. New Jersey had no one who could keep him from scoring without fouling him, as O’Neal continued to outperform the value of his contract.
Rivers: “That was the young [Shaq]. I mean – he was just good. He had great energy. And we had to have it. We had to leave him on the floor at times. He was just – his energy, his size, everything – he was phenomenal for us.”
Shaq ended up logging 32 minutes, including a stint with the second unit, where he might take up residence once Kendrick Perkins returns. In the meantime, Shaq continues to make a strong case for himself as the permanent starter, something we’ll consider on Celtics Hub in the near future (one key argument against Shaq applies whether he’s starting or coming off the bench: the consistently horrific results on D when he has to step out and guard the pick and roll/pop. New Jersey made a living on that in the first half and even in the second half, when the Celtics clamped down, it usually involved help defense rather than O’Neal making any adjustments himself).
Re-watching the game tonight, it was notable how many good shots the Celtics had and just missed. Kevin Garnett (4-12 for 8 points) made a number of strong post moves that just didn’t fall. Glen Davis (3-9 for 8 points) missed a batch of open jumpers he normally knocks down. Pierce missed all but one of the five threes he took, but they were all good looks.
Really, the Celtics controlled this game for the first eight minutes or so, and then the entire second half. It was just that slodgy (not a real word) 16-minute stretch that kept the Nets in the game.
As a result, there was plenty to like from this one:
So, what now, given the West injury?
First – don’t expect Rajon Rondo back Friday against the Raptors.
Rivers suggested it was unlikely he’d see the court. “I’m probably less likely [to play him] the way things are going. I’m serious about that. Unless [Trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] says he’s feeling great.”
Beyond that – it’s unclear.
We’ll look at this in greater depth once we understand the severity of the injury but it seems certain we’re going to see a lot of Nate Robinson even after Rondo returns. He’ll have to take on the PG role on the second unit, and look for his shot. That kind of multi-tasking has been problematic for him so far in his Celtics career. We may also see Daniels as the primary ballhandler and Robinson at SG. And Wafer looks to see his minutes stretched out. We’ll see if he’s up for it.
But tonight, it’s all about West. Just as his comeback (is that the right word?) was picking up steam, he has to start all over again. Let’s hope he’s not out for too long. He’s too important to this team’s championship aspirations.
Back tomorrow with a Thanksgiving Day notebook.