J. O'Neal practices with C's, probable vs. Spurs

191544.jpg

J. O'Neal practices with C's, probable vs. Spurs

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

SAN ANTONIO Unless there's an unexpected turn for the worse -- and when you're talking about the Boston Celtics, nothing related to injuries can be ruled out entirely -- Jermaine O'Neal will be back in the Celtics lineup Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

O'Neal, out since having left knee surgery in early February, returned to practice on Wednesday.

Coach Doc Rivers, who has had his share of injuries suffered in practice, didn't know what to expect.

"He had a good practice," Rivers said. "He missed shots and all that stuff, but overall, I thought he was terrific."

Rivers added that he thought O'Neal's quickness and activity after such a lengthy layoff were better than he anticipated.

"I was happy," Rivers said. "I was very happy with him."

Afterward, O'Neal was feeling pretty good, as well.

"It felt good; first day," O'Neal said. "It felt good, just to get some of the terminology back. For the most part, physically I feel strong."

Of course, O'Neal has to make it through the next 24 hours without no significant pain or soreness in order for the Celtics to feel comfortable with him playing against the Spurs.

That shouldn't be a problem, not with O'Neal spending the past few weeks working out in Chicago and not having any kind of significant soreness or swelling afterward.

There's no telling how many minutes O'Neal will play against San Antonio.

But the truth is, it really doesn't matter.

As much as they would like to have O'Neal playing solid at both ends of the floor, they need him as another big body even more.

He's not expecting to put up big numbers in his return.

More than anything, he's concerned with helping the C's get a victory.

"That's what this is all about," he told CSNNE.com. "Trying to help this team win games now, and in the playoffs. Nothing else -- my numbers or what have you -- means anything. It's all about finding ways to win games."

Also present at practice Wednesday was Von Wafer, who is recovering from a strained right calf.

Shaquille O'Neal and Troy Murphy were the only two players not in attendance.

Shaquille O'Neal's return date is tentatively scheduled for April 5 at home against Philadelphia, but, as it has in the past, could be pushed back.

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

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

BOSTON – You knew Boston’s dominance over the Sacramento Kings at the TD Garden was going to come to an end someday. 

Well that day won’t come around for at least another season as the Celtics’ forgotten man just a couple nights ago, Al Horford, came up with big plays at both ends of the floor that helped propel Boston to a 97-92 win. 

With Boston ahead 95-92 with less than 10 seconds to play, the Kings had one chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. 

They got the ball to their best player DeMarcus Cousins who tried to draw a foul against his defender, Al Horford. 

Cousins’ attempt to sell there being contact behind the 3-point line was not being bought by the officials. 

After his missed shot, Sacramento’s Garrett Temple fouled Horford with 4.8 seconds to play. 

Horford, who finished with a season-high 26 points, went to the line and made both of the free throws to seal the victory. 

The Celtics (11-8) have now won five of their last seven games overall as they hit the road where they’ve won four in a row away from the TD Garden.

Meanwhile the Kings (7-12) have now lost nine straight at the TD Garden.

Sacramento had swung the game’s momentum in their favor at the end of the third and early in the fourth, but the Celtics refused to go down without a fight. 

A shot by Horford tied the game at 76. And on the ensuing Kings possession, Horford came up with a blocked shot that ultimately led to lay-up for Jonas Jerebko to put Boston up 78-76.

Cousins suffered a cut above his right eye in the fourth quarter and finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists. 

After a Sacramento time-out following Jerebko’s basket, the Celtics came up with another turnover – their 15thforced turnover of the night – that led to a lay-up by Kelly Olynyk.

On the ensuing Olynyk basket, Cousins took a blow to the head on the play that forced him to leave with 7:08to play. 

With no Cousins on the floor, the Celtics tightened up their perimeter defense and made a point of attacking the Sacramento interior immediately.

Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 20 points, converted a three-point play at the 6:33 mark - 35 seconds after Cousins left the game.

The close finish was in stark contrast to how the game begin. 

In Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, Horford only took five shots from the field. 

After the game, head coach Brad Stevens said that should have never happened. 

Jae Crowder called it “unacceptable.”

Well it didn’t take Horford long to get five shot attempts – about five minutes actually. 

And the four-time all-star hit most of them as he helped the Celtics lead by as many as 13 points in the first quarter before the Kings closed out the quarter with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 29. 

Horford led four double figure scorers for Boston which included Thomas, Jae Crowder (16 points) and Avery Bradley (15 points). 

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics take a slim 47-46 lead into the half over Sacramento, a team they have dominated at the TD Garden. 

The Celtics are looking to extend their winning streak at home over the Kings to nine in a row with a victory tonight. 

But the Kings are not going to go down easily, as they rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter. 

After Boston went ahead 29-19, the Kings scored the final 10 points of the quarter to tie it at 29. 

Sacramento took a couple of brief leads in the second, only for the Celtics to get a clutch shot or a timely stop defensively. 

The final points of the half came on a put-back basket by Al Horford which gave Boston a one-point lead that would serve as the margin going into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Friday’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

After taking just five shots in Wednesday’s loss to Detroit, Horford had as many in the first six minutes. He would finish the half with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included a pair of three-pointers.

DeMarcus Cousins

He had a horrible first half shooting the ball, but there was no denying Cousins’ presence and impact on the game. Despite missing six of his nine shot attempts he still led them with nine points and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

He looked a lot more like the Avery Bradley we’ve seen most of this season, and not the one who was a non-factor for most of Wednesday’s loss to Detroit. At the half he had nine points and four rebounds.

Matt Barnes

The oldest player on the floor certainly didn’t look past his prime. The 36-year-old small forward came off the Kings bench to score six points along with grabbing eight rebounds. 

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

A 19.6 points per game scorer this season, Gay couldn’t get into any kind of flow or rhythm offensively. At the half, he had four points on 2-for-8 shooting which included him missing all four of his three-pointers.