As recently as the last week in March, the mere mention of Jermaine O'Neal's name elicited more smirks than smiles. He was a routine punchline since January when he, and the organization decided to have him take the surgical route in an attempt to salvage his first season with the Celtics. Based on his first playoff game last night against the New York Knicks, he was the main reason the Celtics won, according to head Coach Doc Rivers.
“We won the game tonight because of Jermaine O’Neal. That’s it. I mean he was, forget his offense. His defense, his presence, his shot-blocking, his rebounding, his toughness – and he did it in both halves. He was absolutely wonderful.” – Doc's words to reporters following the game.
The most amazing aspect of his game last night was that it came after being whistled for early foul trouble, so he had to wait until the second half to make his presence felt. With the Celtics dragging their way through another aggravating and lackluster effort, JO ignited his team with some inspired defense and timely baskets.
Picking up where he left off in DC, JO let his play do his talking and you could just see the rest of the team feel like they got slapped in the face to wake up and realize it was the playoffs. The Knicks weren't afraid. They weren't backing down. They were attacking and they smelled green blood. Amazingly, if not for Jermaine O'Neal, who knows if the C's wake up in the second half and steal Game 1.
Take a look below for a collection of highlights of JO's incredible and unbelievable work. If you were the one fan counting on him for this much production in ONE playoff game, let alone a COMBINED playoff effort, then I'm taking you to Vegas with me.
- Blocking Amare's drive to the hoop
- Knocking down the mini-jumper from Pierce's dish
- Solid D on Amare, forcing the turnover
- Taking a charge from Amare, but got called for the block
- Finishing a lay-up off another feed from Pierce
- Solid foul on a driving Amare
- Offensive rebound from Rondo's missed free throw
- Offensive rebound and put-back from Pierce's missed drive
- Rejecting a driving Melo, then finishing the break with another mini-jumper in the lane
- After KG keeps the possession alive, Rondo finds JO on the baseline for a jumper
- Another monster block on Melo
- Taking the charge on Bill Walker
- Another solid foul on a driving Melo
- Drawing the charge on Amare
- Clutch block on Ronny Turiaf
- Bigger clutch offensive rebound and put-back in the lane to tie it