J. O'Neal gets a second opinion on ailing knee

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J. O'Neal gets a second opinion on ailing knee

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There will be no prime-time special or children parading around a nearby Boys & Girls Club outside Boston awaiting Jermaine O'Neal to announce his "decision."

But make no mistake about it.

The ramifications will be felt by the Boston Celtics, one way or another.

O'Neal went to New York to have a second opinion on his sore left knee, one of the many injuries he's had this season while being limited to just 17 games.

In those 17 games, he has averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing 18.1 minutes.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com that O'Neal was stuck in New York because of the weather.

"So we haven't had any meetings," Ainge said, adding that a meeting is expected to happen Wednesday.

"And we'll figure out a game plan going forward," Ainge said.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said that if O'Neal elects to have surgery, it will likely result in him having little to no role with the team during the playoffs.

"I think we're leaning towards no surgery, obviously, if he wants to play," Rivers said prior to Boston's 109-106 win over Orlando on Monday. "But maybe someone can say he can do it and he can be back in four weeks, that would be different. I don't know."

Regardless, O'Neal will be sidelined for a significant period of time, which is yet another blow to the Celtics' depth in the frontcourt.

If the Celtics elect to have him rest the knee like he did earlier this season for six weeks and then return to action, look for O'Neal to play less than 10 more regular-season games.

After playing in 70 games last season with the Miami Heat, the Celtics thought O'Neal and his history of injuries would not be an issue.

O'Neal felt the same way.

They were both wrong.

And because of that, Boston will likely spend a good chunk of the remaining regular season down at least one big man.

However, the return of starting center Kendrick Perkins - he's targeting Feb. 4 against Dallas - will certainly ease the potential loss, short or long-term, of not having O'Neal.

Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL injury in Game Six of the NBA Finals last June.

He recently returned to full contact practice with the Celtics.

As much as O'Neal and his injury have been a big disappointment to the player and the C's, fans must remember he wasn't brought to Boston to be the team's full-time starting center.

He was essentially added as a stop-gap until Perkins return to the lineup.

From there, he would fall back into the backup mix of bigs that includes Shaquille O'Neal, Semih Erden and Glen Davis, who plays both power forward and center.

With all those bigs, at some point Rivers was going to have to tell one of his talented centers that in all likelihood, there would be games in which they would not play.

This most recent knee injury to Jermaine O'Neal makes the "decision" for Rivers along those lines, a lot easier to make.

Still, that doesn't make the decision that O'Neal has grappling with, any easier.

Before he had the second opinion, O'Neal sounded like man torn between doing what he needs (surgery) and what he wants (to play), well aware that the two are essentially at odds right now.

"It's almost a shock to the system," Jermaine O'Neal said. "There is a chance that you may not come back and play. There's a chance that it might not go as well as you want it to go. A lot of different things can happen when you go through surgery. At the end of the day, you have to live with the decision you make. To me, it's all about playing. I just want to play; I just want to help."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at www.twitter.comsherrodcsn.

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.