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Pierce Returns, O’Neal Stars, as Celtics Win Home Opener

Paul Pierce returned to the Celtics Friday night, scoring 12 points in 23 minutes against the Pistons at the TD Garden. (Reuters/Boston.com)

Paul Pierce returned to the Celtics Friday night hoping to help re-align and settle the offense. The result: triple-digit scoring nights from five players (including Pierce), 60 percent accuracy from the Celtics’ starters, and a 96-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons in the Celtics’ home opener.

The Pistons remain winless.

Celtics Put Game Away in Third

The Celtics came out of halftime up just 50-43. Ray Allen and Pierce hit back-to-back three pointers within the first minute of the quarter, then Pierce hit his second less than three minutes later, pushing the Celtics’ lead to 58-47.

Pierce finished the game with 12 points in 23 minutes, not wanting to overdo it on his first night. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out five assists.

Allen finished with 17 points, also hitting two three-pointers. Jermaine O’Neal led the team with 19 points – his most as a Celtic – and seven rebounds. He scored seven points in the third quarter, sinking two jumpers and an and-1 layup that put the Celtics up 84-59 late in the quarter.

Brandon Bass scored nine of his 17 points in the third quarter, including a 23-foot jumper as the quarter expired. As expected, Bass continues to be the best and possibly only scoring threat on the Celtics’ bench. But Keyon Dooling may finally be learning how to run the offense when called upon to do so.

Dooling dealt out four assists Friday – just one behind game-leaders Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Three of the four came from baskets by Bass.

The Celtics took a 22-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Pistons got as close as 90-76, but two free throws by Allen, a jumper from Kevin Garnett and a basket from the top of the key by O’Neal pushed the lead back to 20 with less than four minutes left in the game.

Defense Tough Inside

While the Celtics’ rebound woes continued Friday, getting out-rebounded 35-30 and allowing 12 offensive boards, the team continued its strong shot-blocking this season.

Marquis Daniels and O’Neal both blocked two shots, with both of O’Neal’s coming in that key third quarter. Garnett and Daniels each blocked a shot in the third, and Greg Stiemsma added another in the fourth. Daniels also blocked Brandon Knight‘s three-point attempt with time expiring in the first.

The Celtics currently tie for sixth in the NBA with the Thunder, averaging 6.5 blocks per game. Though he plays just the third-fewest minutes per game of any of the top sixty shot-blockers in the NBA, Stiemsma still ranks second with 3.5 blocks per game.

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