By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON Figuring out the Boston Celtics playoff rotation is pretty easy for coach Doc Rivers.
Getting them on the floor in the same game?
Now that's another story.
The return -- and then loss -- of Shaquille O'Neal, who missed the previous 27 games because of a right Achilles injury, highlights the challenges Rivers faces in preparing the Celtics for what they hope will be a long playoff run.
O'Neal came off the bench in Boston's 101-90 win over Detroit on Sunday. He played six minutes before suffering a right calf strain that the team says will sideline him indefinitely.
Whenever he returns, and when he gets back into playing shape, he is expected to regain his starting job at some point between now and the playoffs.
In addition to O'Neal, the Celtics' starting five will include Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Coming off the bench, Rivers will go with Delonte West, Jeff Green, Glen Davis and Jermaine O'Neal for sure.
As much as Rivers understands the need to get those guys as many reps with one another, he also knows that developing some type of flow is just as important.
"What we have to do is get everybody on the same page, rhythm-wise," Rivers said. "As far as rotation and the bench, I know it. It's set. But we just have to get it together."
And it's that latter point that, maybe more than anything else, will challenge the C's in these final six games prior to the playoffs.
"That's the biggest dilemma here," said Kevin Garnett. "We are dealing with the health issue here and I think sometimes it's messing with the inconsistency of what we're doing. Obviously the team out there and the guys out there on the court have to be accountable with what we are doing. At the same time, teaching guys new schemes, our schemes, and on top of that trying to understand the rotation and who is healthy. We are multi-tasking here."
Among those tasks, is to continue racking up victories leading into the playoffs.
"Every game is important; we're trying to win out, trying to get ready for the playoffs," said Paul Pierce. "But the most important thing . . . is us getting healthy right now. I'm feeling pretty good, some of the other guys are feeling pretty good, some guys are banged up, so that's important right now, as this next week goes by these guys staying healthy."