Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
“Nothing else was working," admitted Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "As a coach, sometimes, really, you just try and mix it up. I thought Shaq had great energy tonight. I thought he was disruptive in the paint. I thought they really struggled with him in pick-and-rolls with Paul [Pierce]. And I thought, with Baby, they may switch on Paul. But if [Pierce] could pull [the defender], Shaq could go down the middle. If Shaq didn’t have dunks, somebody else would get open."
Sure enough, there was Pierce and Shaq working key late-game pick-and-rolls, including one in which Pierce buried a 19-foot jumper with 1:36 to play that helped seal the victory. O'Neal hit a pair of key free throws in the final five minutes (though he missed another that could have took some of the drama out of the final moments).
O'Neal finished with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds over 27 minutes, 25 seconds of action (much inflated from his usual 22 minutes per game).
"Shaq was big for us in the second half," said Kevin Garnett. "He did a great job of drawing fouls and we did a better job of finding him as he drove in….[O'Neal was] huge for us when we needed him. Usually, he's not in there, during that course of the game, but he was big for us. He got us into the bonus with fouls. When you have Shaq in there, it's a luxury.
"He’s like a black hole, he sucks everything in. Ray [Allen], Paul and the perimeter guys, even myself, get open shots we don't normally have. He's a luxury."
We experienced the best and the worst of '4th quarter Shaq' last night. While he scored 2 points and hauled down 4 rebounds, he missed two free throws with one minute remaining and the Celtics nursing a two point lead.
Stats aside, it's also those less obvious things, like him drawing defenders and opening up the court for other guys that impact nearly every possession.
As a whole, you just can't argue with his production.
His one-handed slam off a Marquis Daniels' lob in the 3rd quarter may have been the most exciting play of the game.
On Page 2, where the Celtics can inflict a variety of damage.
They’ve beaten eight teams by double figures during the streak. Then again, they’ve won four games by 4 points or fewer. Last night was easily their worst shooting night during the run, the 38.8 percent topping the rock fight they had with the Bobcats more than a week ago (43.7). They’ve used four different starting lineups, but the core of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett has remained injury free.
“We’re finding ways to win in any kind of way and that just shows the versatility of the team this year,’’ Pierce said. “We’ve won games in the hundreds. We’ve won games in the 80s. We’re just finding ways to grind it out because we don’t have the healthy bodies, and you don’t know who’s going to be in there night in and night out.
“So we’ve got to win differently every night. That’s the way its going to be. We’re not going to make excuses’’
The rest of the links:
Herald – Winning streak not exactly hearts, flowers | Cs eke out another one | No Pats on back for Celtics | Globe – Celtics get message in late going | WEEI – Glen Davis doesn't care about Magic | Pierce admits refs got better of him | Celts capture 14th straight | CSNNE – Grinding out the streak |