Shaq, still not ready, gives C's best chance to win

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Shaq, still not ready, gives C's best chance to win

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM As the Boston Celtics opened their practice to the media on Friday, there was a sight we haven't seen in a while - Shaquille O'Neal.

He was on the sideline, a place that he may very well be when the Celtics open up their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks.

Game One will be Sunday at the TD Garden.

After Boston's regular-season finale against New York earlier this week, coach Doc Rivers was hopeful O'Neal would get a couple practices in before returning to the court.

But that plan, like most of the C's plans when it comes to O'Neal, has been changed.

While there was some thought to having O'Neal involved with Friday's practice, Rivers said, "I just don't want to take the chance."

Rivers added, "He'll practice, hopefully Saturday, and we'll make a decision after that."

As much as the Celtics want O'Neal back on the floor, there really isn't a rush at the moment.

His impact on the Celtics postseason push will be needed as the C's get deeper into the playoffs.

The New York Knicks are actually one of the few playoff teams in the East for which there exists a huge void at the center position.

That, coupled with Jermaine O'Neal playing his best basketball for the Celtics, gives Boston the confidence that they can go out and win this series against New York - with or without S. O'Neal.

But as we have seen throughout this season, Boston is a better team when Shaq is on the floor.

Even as the oldest player in the NBA, S. O'Neal still has a presence about him that demands plenty of attention.

"Every day he wakes up, he's still going to be Shaq," New York's Chauncey Billups told CSNNE.com. "And Shaq, even now, is a player your defense has to worry about because he's still so big and he's still really strong. He may not be a 20 (point) and 10 (rebound) guy like he used to, it don't matter. Shaq causes problems for your defense."

When he's not scoring, his presence opens the floor for his teammates.

And defensively, his size is more of a deterrent for players trying to get into the lane who are well aware that the 7-foot-1 center is not shy about laying a hit on anyone invading the lane.

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

Fully healthy Celtics prepare for Giannis Antetokounmpo

Fully healthy Celtics prepare for Giannis Antetokounmpo

BOSTON – Brad Stevens began his pre-game press conference with a seldom-used proclamation. 

“Everyone’s available,” he said. “Doesn’t happen very often.”

Jonas Jerebko, who did fully participate in the team’s practice on Tuesday due to a sore left knee, was questionable for tonight’s game. His availability can only help the Celtics in tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the hottest teams in the NBA. 

The Bucks (38-36) have won 12 of their last 15 games which includes a 118-108 win at Charlotte on Tuesday. 

Tony Snell lit up the Hornets for a career-high 26 points. Rookie Malcolm Brogdon had a double-double of 14 points and 10 assists. 

And then there’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, a matchup nightmare who had 20 points and eight rebounds.

“He does some things,” Stevens said. “That’s the best way to say it. He keeps adding to it. Him in transition is like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody like him.”

Indeed, the Greek Freak has been a vital cog in Milwaukee’s resurgence from a team bound for the lottery (again), to one that could potentially wind up as the fifth seed in the East. 

“As he’s become more skilled,” Stevens said. “He continues to put you in a worst bind. He’s tough; he’s good.”

Celtics guard Avery Bradley said there’s a long laundry list of things Boston must do tonight to emerge victorious. At the top of that has to be finding ways to attack Milwaukee’s length which stands out in a league full of lanky, long-armed players.

“Ball movement, getting the ball to the next side, not letting them load up their defense, shot fakes, drawing fouls … I can go down the list,” Bradley said. “But the most important thing is moving the ball; making them defend side to side, making them have to guard us so they’re not in position to block shots or make shots tough on us.” 

Tanguay: No pressure, Al, but Celts' postseason success hinges on you

Tanguay: No pressure, Al, but Celts' postseason success hinges on you

Hey, Al Horford. No pressure, but these upcoming playoffs are on you. 

The Celtics are having a great REGULAR season. But for this postseason to be anything but regular, Al needs to come up big.

To his credit, he's done that recently. But he need to play even better in the playoffs. Better isn’t even the right word. Power. That’s it: Power. Horford needs to play with more power. 

The problem is this has never really been his game, and therefore it may prove the Celtics overpaid when they gave him a max contract. 

During his 74 postseason games with the Hawks, Horford averaged 12.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. This season he has averaged 6.9 rebounds for the Celtics. There's no way his rebounding numbers an be that low in the playoffs. 

I want at least 18 points and 8 rebounds per game from him over the course of the Celts post season run. And NO THREEs. I know the guy can shoot, but he needs to keep that 6-foot-10 body of his twelve feet or less from the hoop. 

So if the Celtics let you down or underperform this spring, it won't be on Isaiah. It will be on you, Al. 

Again, no pressure.