Celtics 93, 76ers 65
Shaq’s debut was a hit.
Shaquille O’Neal scored eight points in his debut with the
Boston Celtics and the defending Eastern Conference champions
opened their preseason with a 93-65 victory over the Philadelphia
76ers on Wednesday night.
Ray Allen led Boston with 14 points, including two 3-pointers,
while Glen `Big Baby’ Davis and Semih Erden both had 13 points.
But it was ”The Diesel’s Debut” that grabbed much of the
”I’m just trying to get into it with the guys,” he said.
”Just trying to stay a thousand percent healthy, because, in a
couple a weeks, you know, it’s for all the marbles.”
The Celtics, who lost an epic Game 7 of the NBA finals to the
Los Angeles Lakers, returned coach Doc Rivers, who considered
retirement, as well as Allen and Paul Pierce – both of whom could
have left via free agency.
”I didn’t really know what to expect,” Rivers said. ”Our
defense was phenomenal.”
The Celtics signed the large O’Neal – Shaquille – along with
Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West, hoping to add depth to a bench
that will need to offer support for aging stars Kevin Garnett,
Pierce and Allen.
Boston led 49-22 at halftime after the 76ers shot 16 percent (5
of 31). Led by Allen’s 10 points in the opening half, the Celtics
shot 57 percent.
”You know I sort of expected this tonight,” Philadelphia coach
Doug Collins said. ”I mean we did not have our key guys.”
Collins said he didn’t play forward Elton Brand and guard Andre
Iguodala because the team ”hadn’t had a day off yet.” He said the
team would be off Thursday.
The Celtics took a 70-40 lead after three quarters.
With center Kendrick Perkins sidelined after offseason surgery
on his right knee and Jermaine O’Neal out with a strained left
hamstring, the 38-year old Shaq started at center.
His first basket with the Celtics came on an alley-oop from
Rajon Rondo when the 7-foot-1 center tipped in the pass to the
delight of the crowd early in the first quarter.
”We’ve still got several new players that have to get adjusted
to the Celtics basketball culture, but overall we’re doing what
we’re supposed to do,” O’Neal said.
About the only thing he did to let down the crowd was when he –
like he usually does – struggled at the free-throw line, missing
two midway into the third.
He even flashed that familiar smile when he checked in early in
the second quarter and joked with his teammates on the bench.
Shaq was the last one onto the court when the Celtics took the
court for pregame warmups, but he immediately grabbed the attention
of many of those waiting to see his first action with Boston.
A big roar went up when a fan was shown on the jumbotron holding
a sign that read, ”Welcome Shaq.”
76ers center Spencer Hawes strained his lower back in the first
half and did not play in the second.