Ray Allen made the last shot. Paul Pierce made the pass for that final shot. But in the estimation of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, the hero of Game 1 against the Knicks last night was the guy who changed the game and impacted the game all game long.

"We won the game because of Jermaine O'Neal," Rivers concluded after the Celtics pulled out a thrilling 87-85 Game 1 victory over the Knicks. "Forget his offense. His defense, his presence, his shot-blocking, his rebounding, his toughness. And he did it in both halves. He was absolutely wonderful."

But nowhere was Jermaine -- the "other" O'Neal, because Shaquille is waylaid by a calf injury -- more effective than in the third quarter. After the Celtics played a first half looking eerily similar to the stars of "The Walking Dead," O'Neal crammed six points, two blocks, several altered shots and a huge charge taken against Bill Walker into the third quarter that ended with the Celtics, once down 12, back within five.

"Jermaine was huge. He did some incredible things," said Glen Davis. "You've got the Big Three and know they're going to be there, but there always is one guy who changes the game. And that was Jermaine."

Not bad for a 32-year-old guy who called this past season, when he played just 24 games because of arthroscopic knee surgery, the "hardest" of his career. A game like last night can change your outlook.

"Everybody has a job to do," said O'Neal, who recorded 12 points, four rebounds and four blocks in 23 minutes. "When I was brought over here, the conversation I had with Doc was about the defensive end."

Obviously, O'Neal came with more than just talk in Game 1.