Shaq won't play Sunday or Monday for Celtics

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Shaq won't play Sunday or Monday for Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI Shaquille O'Neal said recently that he would only need a couple of games to be ready to go for the playoffs.

Now, it looks like he doesn't have a choice.

CSNNE.com has learned that the 7-foot-1 center will not play in Sunday's game against Miami, or Monday's matchup against Washington. That means the only regular season action he may see at this point will be the regular season finale against the New York Knicks.

But if the Celtics lock up the No. 2 seed within the next couple games, chances become even more slim that O'Neal will suit up before the playoffs.

A team official confirmed that O'Neal did not travel with the team from Boston to Miami, and added that he's not expected to join them for either Sunday's game against the Heat or Monday's matchup at Washington.

Following Boston's 104-88 win over the Wizards Friday night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers hinted that there was a chance that O'Neal might at travel with the team for Sunday's game against the Heat.

The only time players who are injured travel is when they are close to returning to action.

"If we don't think he has any chance (of playing), he's not going to go on the trip," Rivers said. "I'm going to lean towards not, but I'm not sure."

Prior to Boston's win at San Antonio on March 31, Rivers said that O'Neal and his rash of injuries might "bleed" into the playoffs.

"I just don't know because I've never had this situation," Rivers said at the time. "It's getting to become a challenge. It wasn't before, because I just viewed it as a regular-season injury. Now it's starting to get close to bleeding into playoffs. Now that becomes a challenge."

Hours later, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told WEEI that O'Neal would return to the floor within days.

O'Neal was back in the Celtics lineup on April 3 against Detroit, only to suffer a strained right calf injury in less than six minutes of playing time.

He was very effective during his time on the floor, scoring six points in addition to opening things up for teammates such as Delonte West to knock down open shots.

But the fact that he re-aggravated one of his many injuries this season, once again raises questions about whether the 39-year-old can withstand the rigors of playoff basketball long enough to make an impact for the Celtics.

Boston was hoping to bring him back for a few games to close out the season, and then shut him down until the playoffs.

With his recent injury coupled with how valuable he will be to their quest to bring home Banner 18, the Celtics may have no choice but to keep him sidelined until the playoffs.

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

Celtics season comes to an end after 104-92 loss to Hawks

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Celtics season comes to an end after 104-92 loss to Hawks

BOSTON – For so many games, the Boston played without any thought to the scoreboard.

No matter how big the deficit, no matter how deep into the game things got and they had to play from behind, there was never any question about their ability to fight back and compete and on many occasions, emerge victorious.

You saw that same fight and grit from the Celtics in the fourth quarter of Game 6, after having fallen behind by 28 points only to be within 95-83 with 3:16 remaining after a 3-point play by Isaiah Thomas.

Boston came within 10 points (96-86) with 1:48 to play, but quickly gave up a 3-point play at the other end that pretty much put the game away for the Hawks.

Throughout this series, the Atlanta Hawks proved themselves to be a different kind of opponent for Boston, a team that played a similar brand of basketball as the Celtics … only better and more experienced at it.

Those were just some of the factors that played a pivotal role in the Celtics never mustering up enough positive plays in a series that is now a thing of the past after Atlanta’s 104-92 Game 6 victory at the TD Garden.

Atlanta now moves on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.  

Meanwhile the Celtics will have several months to ponder the usual “what if …” that teams whose season ends sooner than expected, think about.

What if Avery Bradley were healthy for more than three-plus quarters?

What if Kelly Olynyk’s sore right shoulder injury not flare up again in the series?

What if the Celtics had been pared against Miami or Charlotte instead of Atlanta following their four teams finishing in a tie?

For Boston, it was a night that in many ways symbolized what kind of series this has been for them.

Atlanta had a collective, across-the-board effort to keep the ball out of Isaiah Thomas’ hands as much as possible.

And more games than not, it worked.

He finished with 25 points on 9-for-24 shooting.

It meant other Celtics had to step up and contribute, something the Celtics did very little of throughout the series.

On Thursday, the Celtics got a nice lift from Jonas Jerebko who scored Boston’s first five points and helped Boston jump out to a 9-5 lead. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

But that would be as good as it got for the Celtics who eventually fell behind by nearly 30 points in what was the most important game of their season.

Every time the Celtics would make a play that got the crowd involved, Atlanta would counter with a basket of their own.

And when it came to the 50/50 hustle plays, Atlanta won that game as well.

As much as the series will be remembered for what the Hawks did defensively against Thomas, it will also be remembered for Boston’s inability to make the most basic basketball play – an open jumper.

But the Celtics made things mildly interesting in the third quarter when they cut Atlanta’s lead to 73-59 following a 3-point play by Marcus Smart.

The Hawks went on to score the final seven points of the third which included a buzzer-beating jumper by Al Horford that gave the Hawks a 21-point lead going into the fourth.

From there, the Hawks did just enough to get the win while sending the Celtics home for the season with a first round exit for the second year in a row. 

Celtics-Hawks Game 6 at the half: C's fall behind, show signs of comeback

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Celtics-Hawks Game 6 at the half: C's fall behind, show signs of comeback

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have 24 minutes to keep their season alive.

If it happens, they’ll have to play much better in the final 24 minutes as they go into the half trailing Atlanta, 41-33.

Boston fell behind 34-21 in the second quarter, but the Celtics showed signs of getting back into the game with a 12-7 spurt to close out the half.

Isaiah Thomas’ call for additional help in this series rang loud and clear among his teammates with Jonas Jerebko leading the way with five of Boston’s first nine points.

But Boston’s 9-5 start was followed by an 8-0 Hawks run that led to a 13-9 Hawks lead as Brad Stevens called a time-out with 3:51 to play in the quarter.

The Hawks’ momentum was slowed down some, but the Celtics still couldn’t muster enough shots to regain the lead.

At the end of the first quarter, the Celtics were down 20-17.

Boston continued to struggle in the third quarter, with Stevens looking for someone, anyone to catch fire offensively.

He tried rookie R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier.

Kelly Olynyk struggled at both ends of the floor during his first half stint.

And Isaiah Thomas, the focal point of Atlanta’s efforts defensively, was once again bottled up for most of the first half.

He wound up scoring 9 points on 3-for-11 shooting.

Meanwhile the Hawks were looking very much like a team ready to move on to the next round of play, getting contributions from key starters and reserves like Tim Hardaway Jr. who had 7 points in the first half.