Celtics expect Shaq to play in Game 3


Celtics expect Shaq to play in Game 3

By A. Sherrod Blakely

WALTHAM One of the reasons the Boston Celtics were more than eager to add Shaquille O'Neal to the roster last fall was because of his experience in big games.

Down 2-0 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals?

It doesn't get much bigger than Game 3 for the Celtics.

And for the first time in weeks, the Celtics are approaching the game convinced that O'Neal will play.

O'Neal, out since re-aggravating a right Achillescalf injury on April 3 - he had missed the Celtics' previous 27 games with the injury - has improved to the point where coach Doc Rivers believes the 7-foot-1 center will see some action in Game 3 on Saturday.

"Right now," Rivers said, "we expect every single guy including Shaq, to play in Game 3."

How much he plays remains to be seen.

The last time O'Neal stepped on the floor, he lasted less than six minutes before hobbling off the court.

The C's are hopeful this return won't be as short.

Regardless of how much he plays, having O'Neal back is both a blessing and a burden of sorts for the Celtics.

He gives them an inside presence offensively that they have lacked throughout this series. He also provides a big body to set screens, something the C's have done a horrible job at throughout this series. And while Jermaine O'Neal has done a solid job as a starter, he doesn't have the same touch around the basket that Shaq does nor does he command the same kind of attention from defenses.

Defensively, the return of Shaq will certainly cause some problems for the Celtics when Miami runs pick-and-roll plays.

But because of his size, he has the ability to take up a considerable amount of space around the basket which should cut off or at least force Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to detour away from the driving lanes that they've essentially lived in during this series.

"He's a handful," Miami's Zydrunas Ilgauskas told CSNNE.com about Shaq. "Really good player, smart player. Eats up a lot of space. It won't be easy dealing with him, but we'll be ready."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.