Shaq not worried about Dwight

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Shaq not worried about Dwight

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The schedule says that the Orlando Magic are up next on the Boston Celtics' docket.

That means Dwight Howard, the most dominant big man in the game, will be on the floor for Monday night's tilt between these two Eastern Conference powers.

Insert yawn from Shaquille O'Neal right about here.

He was asked following Friday's 99-94 win over Charlotte about what it would be like facing Dwight Howard.

"Nothing," said O'Neal, who had 23 points and a season-high five blocks against the Bobcats.

You would think that the Magic were starting Dwight Yoakam at center and not Dwight Howard, based on O'Neal's laissez-faire attitude towards the matchup between the league's top centers of the not-that-long-ago past (O'Neal) and present (Howard).

"The only thing that motivates me is 1825," said O'Neal, who was referring to the Celtics' quest for an 18th NBA title, the core group of Celtics from 2008 trying to win their second NBA title and himself searching for NBA title No. 5. "I'm done with individual matchups. Too old for that."

He's right.

At 38 years old, looking for him to dominate Howard isn't going to happen.

Will he hold his own?

For sure.

But what's overlooked during this stage in which O'Neal's game is on the decline, is how his presence can impact those around him.

To focus on what he does statistically doesn't do justice to what having Shaq has meant to this veteran team.

When you look at Paul Pierce and Ray Allen enjoying career seasons shooting the ball, something you rarely see from true scorers nearing the end of their career, Shaq in the starting lineup has been a big part of that success.

"Teams have to account for him, usually with two people either double-teaming or tilting," Allen told CSNNE.com. "That creates more space for guys like Me and Paul to do what we do. In a lot of ways, he really has made the game a lot simpler in terms of getting good looks."

Allen is on track to become the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made prior to the all-star break next month. He's also shooting a career-best 47.3 percent from 3-point range. Pierce, the reigning 3-point shooting champion, has connected on 41.2 percent of his 3s while shooting a career-high 51.1 percent from the field.

Point guard Rajon Rondo is averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game while shooting 52.1 percent from the field, which is also a career-best.

O'Neal being less than enthused about his matchup with Howard may in part be fueled by what happened the last time these two teams played on Christmas in which the Magic prevailed, 86-78.

Scoring was a challenge for both teams that night, especially for Boston which played most of the game with O'Neal on the bench in foul trouble.

He finished with a season-low 13 minutes of action, while Howard, also hampered to some degree by foul trouble, played 33 minutes which is below his season average.

Not only did the Celtics lose, but O'Neal had to fork over 35,000 to the league for his comments about the way the game was officiated.

"I guess they came out to see number 26 today," said O'Neal, who was referring to official Bob Delaney. "He (No. 26) was a great player out there today."

Still, their presence will be a matchup most fans will be looking forward to seeing.

"If both of them could stay out of foul trouble," said Rajon Rondo. "It's a big, I would say, round 2. I know he's (O'Neal) is up for the challenge. I don't know if he's psyched, but he's a competitive guy. He's not going to back down."

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

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All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

NEW ORLEANS – You don’t rack up triple doubles at a historically ridiculous rate the way Russell Westbrook does without being able to dish out an assist from time to time.

The biggest assist he made in the 66th annual NBA all-star didn’t make its way on to the stats sheet.

But it was historical in so many ways.

Westbrook’s advice to Anthony Davis on how to win the game’s MVP award was indeed taken to heart with Davis winning the award following the Western Conference’s 192-182 win over the East All-Stars.

Davis finished with a game-high 52 points, shattering the previous mark set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Davis won the MVP award after Westbrook had won it each of the two previous All-Star games.

Prior to the game, Davis said he did do a little lobbying among his fellow all-stars in the locker room.

“I stressed that, I think more than enough, to the guys in the locker room before the game that I wanted to get the MVP for this crowd, for this city, and I ended up doing it.”

Following the game, Westbrook acknowledged that he did speak with Davis about how to win the MVP award.

When asked about what he said, Westbrook replied, “I’m not going to tell you, but he did a good job and got it done.”

Despite not winning the MVP award, Westbrook had a dominant game of his own as he tallied 41 points which was one point shy of the previous record.

But after the game, it was clear that he was more pleased with the performance of Davis.

“It was great,” Westbrook said. “It’s definitely always a great thing to do, especially here where he plays in front of his fans, his family. It’s a great experience and definitely happy for him.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the 66th annual NBA all-star game.

 

STARS

Anthony Davis

The hometown team’s best player delivered a scoring night for the ages, finishing with an All-Star record 52 points on 26-for-39 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. The previous record of 42 points was set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Russell Westbrook

His All-Star reign as the game’s MVP came to an end after having won the award the previous two All-Star games. He finished with 41 points.

 

STUDS

Giannis Antetokounmpo

He was an above-the-rim monster, scoring 30 points primarily on a dozen dunks.

Kevin Durant

He was filling up the stat sheet in several categories for the West, finishing with a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Kyrie Irving

Arguably the best performer for the East, Irving had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas

There were others who had a more prolific night shooting the ball, but Thomas’ impact off the bench was indeed felt. He led all East reserves with 20 points.

James Harden

The bearded one had a triple-double as well, although not the kind he would prefer. Along with scoring 12 points, and dishing out 12 assists, Harden also racked up a game-high 10 turnovers.

 

DUDS

None

There were some guys who didn’t do much statistically, but with this being such an exhibition-like event, putting too much stock in any player’s performance is a waste of time. They are among the top 24 or so players in the NBA. No amount of missed shots or turnovers will change that fact.