Celtics expect Shaq to play in Game 3

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Celtics expect Shaq to play in Game 3

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM One of the reasons the Boston Celtics were more than eager to add Shaquille O'Neal to the roster last fall was because of his experience in big games.

Down 2-0 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals?

It doesn't get much bigger than Game 3 for the Celtics.

And for the first time in weeks, the Celtics are approaching the game convinced that O'Neal will play.

O'Neal, out since re-aggravating a right Achillescalf injury on April 3 - he had missed the Celtics' previous 27 games with the injury - has improved to the point where coach Doc Rivers believes the 7-foot-1 center will see some action in Game 3 on Saturday.

"Right now," Rivers said, "we expect every single guy including Shaq, to play in Game 3."

How much he plays remains to be seen.

The last time O'Neal stepped on the floor, he lasted less than six minutes before hobbling off the court.

The C's are hopeful this return won't be as short.

Regardless of how much he plays, having O'Neal back is both a blessing and a burden of sorts for the Celtics.

He gives them an inside presence offensively that they have lacked throughout this series. He also provides a big body to set screens, something the C's have done a horrible job at throughout this series. And while Jermaine O'Neal has done a solid job as a starter, he doesn't have the same touch around the basket that Shaq does nor does he command the same kind of attention from defenses.

Defensively, the return of Shaq will certainly cause some problems for the Celtics when Miami runs pick-and-roll plays.

But because of his size, he has the ability to take up a considerable amount of space around the basket which should cut off or at least force Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to detour away from the driving lanes that they've essentially lived in during this series.

"He's a handful," Miami's Zydrunas Ilgauskas told CSNNE.com about Shaq. "Really good player, smart player. Eats up a lot of space. It won't be easy dealing with him, but we'll be ready."

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

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."