|Fast Break: Paul Pierce returns, and so does winning for the Celtics||12.30.11 at 9:51 pm ET|
Paul Pierce returned and all is right with the Celtics world. The captain didn’t try to dominate the action in his first game of the season. Rather he turned in a coolly efficient offensive game that saw him score 12 points on just eight shots with four rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes of work as the Celtics rolled to a 96-85 win.
Pierce’s effect on his teammates was evident. Kevin Garnett threw a blind bounce pass to the wing that found Pierce’s hands. He was once again the bailout option on offense and the ball movement and spacing were much crisper than they had been in the first three games. Also with Pierce back in the lineup, the Celtics were able to play a solid 10-man rotation that included Sasha Pavlovic as the backup guard.
It didn’t click right away but by the third quarter the Celtics had opened up a 25-point lead and looked like a completely different team than the one we saw in the first three games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Jermaine O’Neal had a much-needed breakout performance, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 29 minutes of work. O’Neal scored in transition and in the half court and more than doubled his point total for the season.
– Ray Allen was 5-for-8 and perfect from the free throw line for 15 points. People expect Allen to make every shot and his greatness is sometimes taken for granted, but even for him his first four games have been tremendous.Allen is shooting 60 percent for the season and hasn’t missed a free throw in 14 attempts.
– The third quarter has been the Celtics’ best by far this season and it was again on Friday when they outscored Detroit 36-21 while shooting 71 percent from the field. They have outscored their opponents, 124-84 in third quarters so far this season.
– Offensive balance — a forgotten concept in the first thee games — made its return to the stat sheet as five different players had at least eight shots and none had more than eleven.
– The reserves were also balanced in a way that made sense. Brandon Bass did most of the scoring with 17 points on just 11 shots, but Keyon Dooling did a fine job running the offense and getting everyone involved with four assists. In other words, the reserve players performed their roles.
– The Celtics got to the free throw line 19 times and made every shot, and more importantly, only allowed 15 to the Pistons. To be sure, Detroit helped immensely by jacking long jump shots, but the Celtics had been -15 at the free throw line through three games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Young center Greg Monroe had his way with the Celtics, scoring 22 points. He was too quick for O’Neal and too strong for Greg Stiemsma, who will have his issues in isolation situations against some of the better offensive players in the league. This will be a reoccurring theme throughout the year, and it could have been a lot worse if the Pistons didn’t inexplicably do everything but get Monroe the ball.