O'Neal injures hip, Erden ready to step in

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O'Neal injures hip, Erden ready to step in

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics were minutes away from a blowout victory over the Utah Jazz.

Shaquille O'Neal was standing outside the Celtics locker room, having already taken off his uniform.

O'Neal is used to not being on the floor late in games, even when the C's are in tightly contested matchups which was not the case in Friday's 110-86 win over the Jazz.

But Friday night was different.

O'Neal couldn't even make it through the first half, as he left the game with what was originally believed to be a right leg injury. He had two points while playing just six minutes.

However, O'Neal is actually suffering from a sore right hip that will keep him out of Saturday night's game at Washington and possibly Tuesday's game against Cleveland.

"It just locked up on me," O'Neal told CSNNE.com. "I'll be all right. It's nothing to worry about."

O'Neal said he started to feel some pain in the right hip early in the game.

"We'll just have to see how long that will be," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who added that O'Neal informed him that he was feeling some pain shortly after tip-off on Friday.

"He actually walked over to me, and said, 'I don't know how long I can go. I'm feeling pretty bad,'" Rivers said.

Seeing O'Neal go down didn't raise a single eyebrow in the Celtics locker room.

The reason?

Because guys going down has been about the only constant with the C's all season.

"On this team it's like a soap opera," said Kevin Garnett, who missed nine games this season with a muscle strain in his lower right leg. "You got to be ready on this team; you never know who is going to go down. Our biggest thing right now is injuries. We're just trying to weather the storm. You have to be ready when you're number is called."

If O'Neal doesn't play, look for rookie Semih Erden to make his fifth start of the season.

In his previous four starts, Erden has averaged 8.5 points and 3.3 rebounds while playing 24.5 minutes per game.

On Friday, Erden had a career-high 14 points in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

"Semih's been good when he's had his number called," Celtics swingman Marquis Daniels told CSNNE.com. "That's just going to help him out in the long run; give him more playing time, more experience. You can't help but to get better when you get out there."

Added Garnett: "NBA games are tough man; it's not something you pick up in one or two days. It is a work in progress and he is doing a good job of it. He has come a long way. He plays against Shaq and all the bigs that he does, so he has no choice but to get better. He's starting to get some time to play, so that's a good thing."

Still, the Celtics know that they are a better team when they have the Big Shamrock manning the middle.

But when you look at the minutes he has played this season, and you look at who's up on their schedule (at Washington on Saturday, home against Cleveland on Tuesday), it wouldn't be a total shock if the Celtics opted to shut him down for both games.

After those two games, the Celtics begin a four-game West coast trip.

And with Jermaine O'Neal out for a month, any chance to rest O'Neal has to be given serious consideration.

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

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”