Celtics expect Shaq to play in Game 3

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Celtics expect Shaq to play in Game 3

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

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.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: George, Hayward, or Griffin?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: George, Hayward, or Griffin?

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0:41 - Celtics are reportedly trying to trade for Paul George and sign Gordon Hayward. Kevin O’Connor joins BST to break down how the Celtics could fit both players under the cap and what Boston would have to give up to acquire George. 

6:37 - Kevin O’Connor joins Michael Holley, Kayce Smith, and Tom Curran to talk about Blake Griffin, what kind of contract he could get, and if Griffin could be a better fit over Gordon Hayward. 

10:13 - With Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs getting into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Phil Perry joins Tom Curran to discuss how Robert Kraft getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame might not be as easy of a process as you think. 

14:05 - If the Celtics were to add George and Hayward or Griffin, would they be a better team than the Cavaliers? Curran, Giles, and Smith discuss. 

Report: Rockets a 'serious threat' to sign Chris Paul

Report: Rockets a 'serious threat' to sign Chris Paul

According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Rockets have "emerged as a serious threat" to sign Chris Paul in free agency.

One major reason appears to be Rockets star James Harden, who Stein says has reached out to Paul directly in hopes he will join him in Houston.

Free agency begins Saturday, July 1.