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Shaq Brings It, Delonte Breaks It, Celtics Escape It 89-83

 

ESPN Box ScoreNets Are ScorchingNets DailyNot your typical Thanksgiving Turkey

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:

  • He didn’t look sharp early on but can we now appreciate Pierce’s superb second half? Maybe the captain was deliberately trying to pick up the energy and the crowd after West’s injury. Maybe it was merely a function of being forced into a point-forward role, but Pierce was all over the place in the last 24 minutes. He cut up the porous NJ defense off the dribble, found open guys for good looks, played strong help defense, rebounded the ball, and even knocked down a couple of elbow jumpers down the stretch, an all-too-rare occurrence lately.
  • Marquis Daniels had one of his best games of the season. Like Pierce, his numbers won’t wow you, but if you saw the game, you saw him break up Nets’ offensive sets, handle the ball, grab a couple of loose balls, and, like everyone else on the Green, kick up his energy as the game moved to its conclusion. In a way, he functioned like West does – by doing a lot of little things well that quietly contribute to victories.
  • Von Wafer put up an impressively odd line tonight. Five minutes, then a whole line of zeros. Then +7. Which is about right – he was good on the defensive end, and remains less than an afterthought on offense. At least right now. We’ll see if that changes now that a spot in the rotation has opened up for him.
  • Nate Robinson, in foul trouble much of the night, got a chance to finish out the game with the starters, and did so in style, nailing a big three-pointer in the closing minutes to ice the win (not only that – the shot came off a high screen-roll with Paul Pierce with tiny Nate setting a passable pick and spotting up on the arc). 
  • Shaq’s post-game rhetoric matched his performance tonight. Except you get the sense it’s not rhetoric; it seems like he really means it when he describes this Celtics team as the best team he’s ever been on and his sole focus as adding championships – to everyone’s resumes. “I think people appreciate my hard work, especially over the past 18 years,” O’Neal said. “I think they understood that when I came here for the 1.5 [million], they knew what was on my mind. For them, it’ll be 18. For the big three, it’ll be two. And for me it’ll be number five. That’s the only thing that I’ll focus on right now.”

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.

  • I_Love_Green

    Look for AB to get 5-10 minutes a game now, with West out and Rondo hurting.

    • Zain

      Doubt it. Doc doesn't trust rookies. Daniels will get some burn at PG like he did tonight. Nate extended minutes. I don't expect Rondo to be rushed back either. Glad we had all that guard depth to start this year, sheesh.

      • I_Love_Green

        I think with West out, Rondo will be back soon. But if they don't bring him back right away, I don't see Doc playing Nate and Daniels at PG all night. Bradley would get some minutes if that does happen.

    • TedL

      Look for Wafer to get some minutes, I think. In the few minutes he played last night he was surprisingly effective on D.

  • jpbl

    If there's such a thing as a deflating win, this is one of them. Glad Shaq brought it but Delonte being out is a bad thing. Based on the history of these things, he could be out 6 to 8 weeks, so we'll probably see him back around the same time as Perk.

    • ElRoz

      I wonder about the timetable myself…the news brief said the last time Delonte broke that writs, he missed 16 games….so that would make about 6 weeks or a bit over.

      I hope so. He might come back before Jermaine!

    • TedL

      I'd expect at about 3 months if it's a compound fracture. Eight weeks just to get the cast off, and then a few weeks to bring the strength and mobility back to his wrist.

  • Batman

    Ryan! I tried talking to you on DDL but Zach didn't put up too many of my posts. I regularly attend, and was glad to see someone from CelticsHub on it. Come back more!

    If Rondo comes back after Toronto's game, we should be ok. Its gonna be a little hard, but we can face adversity. After all being healthy for the playoffs is the most important. But this was definitely a pyrrhic victory

    • Ryan DeGama

      DDL was a lot of fun. Gonna try and make it out regularly. Gotta represent the green.

  • Matt

    Fun Fact: Shaq's 25 points was the most he's scored since BEFORE Cleveland.

  • ElRoz

    Doc absolutely HAS to think and use his experience to work Von Wafer and maybe Bradley into the game…same with Harangody…..there have to be some opportunities for them to play more than 1 min a game!
    If they are not going to use Von Wafer, then at least sign a big-man for C or PF position, or get a guard.
    Harangody can offer more than 2-3 min a game.

    If Rondo comes back soon, at least the bench will have 3 players – Davis, Daniels, Robinson. Thin.
    If Rondo doesn't play Friday against Toronto, Boston will likely be in trouble in that game, maybe a loss.

  • JP-

    That is true, with this injury our depth takes a huge hit without Delonte. At least he will be back this season, so it doesn't seem like its a season ending injury. If they play Marquis at Point they had NO depth behind Pierce so Doc needs to use Wafer or AB to take up some of the minutes that Delonte will used to have. getting JO back would be big right now, and also getting Rondo healthy. Expect Nate to play big minutes

  • Jason

    Marquise defended Harris really well, staying in front of him and using his uncommon length at the point to contest shots. He's pretty good defending swings but he might be best defending points, maybe. I'd been waiting or interested in seeing the "big" lineup out there, with Pierce, Ray and Marquise. When Marquise signed a couple of years ago, Doc talked about, with Marquise's prior experience playing point for Don Nelson, playing that trio together. Then he didn't experiment with it at during preseason. Yep, that's Doc for you, not much of tinkerer. It was unfortunate that it took a broken wrist to West, a bad hammy to Rondo and bogus foul calls on Nate to see that lineup.

    It's been good to see Pierce aggressive and creating for others off the dribble again. Also good to see some of those fourth quarter elbow jumpers go in as well. Those sealed the game.

    Shaq goes 9-10 and his lone miss was a bizarre, pirouette maneuver when he could have dunked it. I was really confused about that one.

  • Josh

    @Zain and @I love green, Bradley will get minutes if the game is not close, but other than that, I dont see alot of time for him. Robinson and Daniels can keep the PG minutes while Rondo is out (which hopefully wont b for a long time)

  • phreesh

    That 'should we move Von Wafer' article awhile back is pretty amusing right about now.

    Starting Shaq seems like a bad idea given his age and numerous health issues. You worry about his ego a bit, but I think he understands that he can't shoulder that many minutes anymore.

    While the team seems happy, I get the sense that this might be the year that age catches up with the Celtics. Lots of injuries already and the old guys haven't been hit yet.

    • TedL

      +12 on the Wafer thing. He's going to take some minutes, and I'm glad we have him instead of some cast-off we've scrambled to get. He's vet min, and it appears he's bought into the team concept. His defense last night was very good. He's not a rockstar, but he can be a solid cog on the second unit, especially if Nate or Quis is in foul trouble.

      On Shaq – the best way to cut his minutes is for Semih to contribute. Anybody know what was wrong with him last night? I mean, the Nets did a good job packing the lane and helping switch to defend drives, but he was awful finishing.

  • TedL

    How about Shaq. He's got to be kicking himself thinking about he wasted the last few years in Cleveland playing with Mo Williams and a bunch of guys who didn't understand how to get him the ball where he could use it. It's incredible how often the Cs are able to get him the ball with nobody between him and the rim, or deep under the basket, or with a huge mismatch after a switch. They really know how to use him on O.

    Now they just have to figure out how to hide him on P and R defense….

    • Rich

      Last few years? Why is it people think Shaq played multiple years in Cleveland?

      The last team Shaq played on that force-fed him the ball was PHX, and that season ended poorly. I think Shaq knows guys shouldn't be trying to get him the ball at this point in his career.

  • I_Love_Green

    Shaq is seriously starting to look like the steal of the offseason.

    • Kobe's Daddy

      and like he might be able to squeeze out another allstar appearance

  • Kobe's Daddy

    But seriously, WEST WILL BE BACK FOR THE PLAYOFFS, no need to panic

  • AussieCeltic

    With Delonte's injury I'm glad we didn't waive Wafer for a big (as one of the CH writers was suggesting – hindsight is 20-20 :) ). 4 injuries at the moment from our best 11 guys! I just hope we are getting them out of the way now and can all be fit after the all-star break.

  • NHBluesMan

    i feel bad for Delonte, after finally getting back on the court, this happens. Although, on the bright side, he'll become a sort of secret weapon for us when he comes back… again. Think about it, if we're beating the teams we're beating now, once D-West comes back then he'll give us an edge in future games. As long as he's ready to go for the play-offs, we'll be good.

    On a side note, i absolutely LOVE seeing Shaq in a Celtics uniform. It's funny that people keep saying 'look at the Heat "big" (i use the term very loosely) 3, they took less money to try to win a championship!" to them i say, look at Shaq! He could've gotten alot more money from other places, but he took the veterans minimum because he KNOWS the best chance he has to win another ring is in Boston. Taking 1.5 million is taking less money to win, not taking only 110 million instead of 116 million where a lack of state taxes probably makes up the difference anyway.

    Boston is the TRUE example of what it means to be a team, Miami is the true example of where egos will get you… granted, they could eventually get things together, but i doubt it, Wade and LeBron can't co-exist with each other

    • rav

      To be fair, taking only 1.5 mil instead of 5-8 mil when he's already earned 250mil+ (in salary only, not including endorsements etc.) in his career is not a big sacrifice either.

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