Jermaine O’Neal turned in what was easily the most surprising contribution of the night for the Celtics, going 6 of 6 from the field against the Knicks for 12 points. As a member of the Miami Heat last season, O’Neal was 9 of 44 from the field in five playoff games against the Boston. As a member of the Celtics this season, O’Neal played in 24 games and averaged 1.2 blocked-shots. O’Neal blocked four shots tonight against New York.
“We won the game because of Jermaine O’Neal,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “That’s it. I mean, forget his offense. His defense, his presence, his rebounding, his toughness… he was absolutely wonderful.”
Said Paul Pierce, “He’s getting his legs up under him. He was big out there tonight. His shot-blocking. He knocked down a couple of shots outside the lane. Just his presence is going to be big for us in the middle with Shaq being out.”
— Pierce said it was important for the Celtics to win Game 1 at home after seeing so many higher-seeded playoff teams lose at home earlier this weekend.
“You want to set the tone, especially at home in Game 1,” said Pierce. “You don’t want to allow the other team to get confidence in your own building. It’s very important to go out and protect your home court in the first game. Also the second game, because when we get to New York, it’s a building they’re very comfortable in. Even though we didn’t play our best basketball tonight we found a way.”
— Carmelo Anthony was called for a surprising offensive foul with Pierce guarding him with 21 seconds left in the game.
“It was the right call,” said Rivers. “Heck of a call to make, but it was the right call. I mean, it was clear. I give Paul a lot of credit.”
Said Anthony, “What I thought and what they called are two different things.”
— Jeff Green (4 points, 0 rebounds) was unspectacular in his playoff debut for the Celtics.
“The crowd was into it the whole game,” said Green. “The fans were into it. Now I see what everybody is talking about.”
— Anthony with the last word:
“They didn’t do nothing special. They won Game 1 here, that’s what they’re supposed to do. We’re very confident.”