Shaq set to make postseason debut with Celtics tonight

Shaq set to make postseason debut with Celtics tonight

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON At some point tonight, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers confirmed that Shaquille O'Neal will make his long-awaited playoff debut for the C's.

O'Neal, who hasn't played since re-aggravating a right calfAchilles injury on April 3 against Detroit, will come off the bench.

"I just think that's tough," Rivers said when asked about not starting O'Neal. "There's a lot of defensive changes you have to make with him on the floor as well. That's just too much."

The fact that O'Neal has played less than six minutes since February brings his conditioning - never something that has been a strength of his - into question.

"That's why you can't get off to a tough start if conditioning is a problem," Rivers said. "It will be. That's what you use time-outs for, and that's what you use your eyes for. Hopefully we can see it."

Having O'Neal available gives the Celtics a much-needed inside presence, both offensively and defensively.

His ability to score around the basket, draw fouls and lots of attention should help the Celtics offense flow better.

And while he is very much a defensively liability, especially in pick-and-roll situations, O'Neal has the ability to clog up the lane should take away some of the driving lanes that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have been cruising into in the first two games.

"Any additions to our lineup, regardless of who plays, is a help," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "Shaq coming back is a huge help for us."

O'Neal, 39, the oldest player in the NBA, has appeared in a career-low 37 regular season games this season. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds - also career lows.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at 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).