Jermaine O’Neal Key to Celtics Season?
But on this night, it was merely an official recognition on the part of the Celtics and their one (and only NBA-ready) center that it was time to call it a night. He wanted a massage and his coach, Doc Rivers, was only too happy to accommodate.
“He’s old,” Rivers said of his not-that-old (33) center. “I didn’t want him falling asleep on the bench. I told him he wasn’t going to play a lot anyway.”
By the time the final horn sounded, and the Celtics had their 81-73 victory, (Jermaine) O’Neal had, as they say, left the building.
His final line in the Celtics’ second victory over the lottery-bound Raptors was hardly a jaw-dropper: 12 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds but — and you knew there would have to be a “but” — 4 blocked shots. He was Tim Thomas around the Celtics’ basket, using his left hand, as so many excellent right-handed shot-blockers (think Kevin McHale) are inclined to do. Raptors coach Dwane Casey noted two early O’Neal rejections “got us on our heels” and set the tone for the night.
“He protects the basket,” Rivers said of O’Neal. “His timing is just amazing. What you saw out there is what we’ve been seeing since the first day of training camp, when I said he was our MVP.”