BOSTON — Jermaine O’Neal scored 19 points as he and the Boston Celtics ended a dismal start to their season with a 96-85 win in their home opener over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.
O’Neal, who played passively in totaling just eight points in the first three games, all losses, was aggressive throughout. He had 10 points in the first half, which ended with Boston on top 50-43. Then he scored seven in the third quarter when the Celtics outscored the Pistons 36-21 to take an 86-64 lead.
The closest the Pistons came after that was the 11-point final margin.
Ray Allen and Brandon Bass added 17 points apiece for Boston and Paul Pierce had 12 in his debut after being sidelined with a bruised right heel. O’Neal, injured much of last season, his first with the Celtics, had seven rebounds.
Greg Monroe had 22 points and nine rebounds, and Austin Daye scored 11 for Detroit, which fell to 0-3.
Boston opened an 11-game stretch in which nine are at home.
The Celtics haven’t started a season 0-4 since 1969-70 and were 0-3 for the first time since 2006-07. Their defense this season had been poor until Friday night, when they held the Pistons to 43 percent shooting. And their offense was on target, as they hit 52 percent of their field-goal attempts and all 19 free throws.
Allen opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer and Pierce hit two more in the first four minutes of the period, building the lead to 61-47. Bass ended the period with a jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer.
Detroit made a brief run, outscoring Boston 9-2 to close the gap to 90-76 with 6:24 left in the game. Then Allen hit two free throws, Kevin Garnett sank a jumper and O’Neal connected from the top of the key for the Celtics’ last basket. It gave them a 96-76 lead with 3:57 to go.
The Celtics had gone ahead to stay on Allen’s 20-footer that made it 17-15 with 4:24 left in the first quarter. They took their biggest lead of the half, 38-26, on two free throws by Pierce with 6:22 remaining.
Notes: Pistons starting guard Rodney Stuckey made just one of 11 shots and finished with three points and seven assists. … New Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine watched from a front-row, baseline seat. Patriots wide receivers Deion Branch and Julian Edelman, safety Patrick Chung and running back Stevan Ridley also were in the crowd…. Celticsbackup forward Chris Wilcox missed his second straight game with a bruised left shoulder. Coach Doc Rivers said he could return on Sunday at the Washington Wizards.