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Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I believe Shaq’s playing’ in Game 3 05.06.11 at 4:29 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

It’s becoming clearer that Shaquille O’Neal is finally ready to return to the court. Celtics president Danny Ainge was a guest on The Big Show Friday afternoon and he said that yes, he believes O’Neal will be ready to play Saturday when the Celtics resume their series with Miami. “I think Shaq is going to give it a go tomorrow,” Ainge said. “We’ll see. I believe Shaq’s playing tomorrow.”

Asked about expectations for him, Ainge said it was impossible to predict. “I don’t know the answer to that yet,” Ainge said. “It will be determined by how well he plays and how effective he is and how he feels.”

Reminded that there was skepticism that Shaq would play after so many false starts, Ainge said, “I think all those times there was some hope because he was making progress but I see more in him right now than any of those times. I understand. I can’t sit here and say 100 percent either. I’m not skeptical of what I’m saying but there’s no certainty until you see him out there.”

Click here to hear the whole interview.

Here are more highlights from a wide-ranging interview:

On what concerns him the most: “My biggest concern is that I have a great deal of respect for our opponents. I think they’re playing very well. The second biggest thing is were not playing at a high enough level. We’re having too many breakdowns. We’re not playing our best basketball. We need to. There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re playing this team.”

On Paul Pierce’s ejection in Game 1: “I still don’t agree with the ejection. I’ve argued my case to the league. They disagreed with me obviously but I don’t agree with the ejection.”

On the play that led to Pierce and Dwyane Wade getting double technicals and an automatic ejection for Pierce: There’s a screen. There was a guy that hit the screen hard and there’s some taunting, both sides sort of chirping at each other I think you can justify the play from an official’s standpoint. When you look at how Dwyane Wade goes through screens throughout the course of the game and you look at that particular play, you see that he did not try to fight through the screen, he was intentionally running through the screen. I think that was much more of flagrant foul than Jermaine O’Neal’s who bumped a cutter going through the lane, which you’re sort of taught to do in practice. The league rescinded that but those were two huge calls.

On what Pierce said to Dwyane Wade: “He said, ‘That’s not going to bother me.’ With a little bit more colorful language. The bottom line is Paul was not taunting. Paul was not starting a confrontation. He knew what Wade was doing. Wade ran right through them and he was basically like you’re going to get me to that way. There’s trash talking that goes on throughout the game. You can make a case that you can call a technical overtime down the court if you’re going to base it on what [Pierce] did.”

On what Ainge told Pierce: “What I told was this, ‘Paul I think it was ridiculous that you were ejected from the game. I did not think that warranted a technical foul. But the first technical in your little nose-rubbing with James Jones, you can’t do that because it takes away any room for error.’ You just never know what’s going to happen. I thought that one was uncalled for and he should have avoided that one. He was flagrantly fouled by James Jones, but so what? Get up and make the free throws, take the ball out of bounds and stay away from that confrontation. I think Paul’s emotions were in control. I think Paul was playing the game the way he always plays the game.”

Ainge added that the officials weren’t the reason the Celtics lost in Miami. “I will just say this: As frustrating as it at times for me, we do have the best officials in any league,” Ainge said. “We have the best of the best. It’s frustrating that they’re not perfect. It’s frustrating that they don’t see it the way I see it all the time. The officials are not the reason that we’re down 0-2.”

On Jeff Green: “I think he has provided us a lot. I’m not down on Jeff Green in any way. I think Jeff is a good player who’s trying to find his way. The other night you saw he was capable.”

On Nenad Krstic: “What happened with Krstic, he got off to a great start and then he went into a little bit of a funk. I thought he was going through a phase where he was just thinking too much. Then he bruised his knee. Then he bruised his knee a second time. I would say right now he’s just back healthy. Right now. He’s been able to play. He’s not been 100 percent.”

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What to expect from Shaquille O’Neal Saturday? Your guess is as good as Doc’s at 12:39 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Shaquille O’Neal hasn’t played since that fateful six-minute stint against the Pistons on April 3 at TD Garden.

When he left the floor, hobbling badly on his strained right calf, no one knew when — or if — the future Hall of Fame center would make his Celtics playoff debut.

Well, it appears O’Neal will indeed join the playoff party for the Celtics on Saturday night for Game 3 against Miami — and not a minute too soon. After he was hardly missed in the Celtics’ four-game dispatch of the Knicks in the first round, his void has been huge in the second round as Miami has muscled its way to two straight wins.

Doc Rivers spoke Thursday about how badly he wants to see his team “go through bodies” and be “forceful” with the Heat to get back in this series.

Hello, Shaq. But Rivers is keeping his expectations in line and not getting his hopes anywhere near up as it pertains to O’Neal. Why? Because Shaq has played exactly five minutes, 29 seconds in one game dating back to Feb. 1. In that 5:29, O’Neal was certainly promising as an inside force, hitting all three shots from the field and grabbing a rebound and, most importantly, establishing an unmistakable inside presence for the Celtics.

But Rivers truly doesn’t know if he can expect that Saturday.

“I have no idea, I really don’t,” he said. “And I don’t say it to be funny, I just don’t, but I know he’s going to be big, I know that.”

Will Shaq’s mere presence in the paint be a deterrent for the Heat and a “force” for the Celtics?

“He’ll be big at the end of the day,” Rivers added. “We’ll find that out. I can’t give that answer.”

Read More: 2011 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Miami Heat Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Doc Rivers says Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce are good to go Saturday 05.05.11 at 3:04 pm ET
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WALTHAM — After a lengthy film session and practice Thursday at their facility in Waltham, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pronounced everyone ready to play in Saturday’s Game 3 against the Heat at TD Garden.

Most notably, Shaquille O’Neal – according to Rivers – will be able to make his playoff debut for the Celtics after missing the first round and first two games of the Heat series with a sore right calf. Rivers said Paul Pierce also will be able to play, despite a sore Achilles that cropped up during the Game 2 loss Tuesday night in Miami. Pierce, however, was held out of Thursday’s practice as a precaution.

“Everybody’s good,” Rivers said. “Everybody is feeling pretty good. Shaq went through practice. We didn’t do anything today, we just watched film and walked over [some] stuff. Then, the second unit worked on their stuff but right now, we expect every single guy, including Shaq, to play in Game 3.

“Honestly, today, [Pierce] could’ve played in a real game but we were not going to let him practice today because his foot, Achilles, is bothering him but he would be fine.”

Rajon Rondo (back) and Ray Allen (bruised chest) took part in Thursday’s workout and are also expected to be ready. The Celtics will practice again on Friday before taking on the Heat Saturday night, trailing the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series, 2-0.

Read More: 2011 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, NBA Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Tim Legler on M&M: Celtics ‘just not athletic enough to deal with this’ 05.04.11 at 12:18 pm ET
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Tim Legler

ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Celtics’ struggles in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The C’s trail the Heat 2-0 as the series heads to Boston for Game 3 Saturday. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

“I think the problem ultimately for the Celtics is going to be that they don’t have home court,” Legler said. “I think they’re going to derive a lot of energy coming home. With the change in venue and the couple of days off they’re going to have right now is going to do them a world of good. I think they’re going to energize themselves. I think they’re going to get their competitive edge back up again and realize: ‘Look, we’re not going out like this.’ And when they get home, you’re going to see a much better effort.

“Having said that, they can win two games in Boston, I don’t think there’s any question about it. But then you’re turning it into a best two out of three, but two of those games being in Miami, and you see the type of energy they played with down there.”

Legler said the Celtics’ aging stars simply can’t keep up with the Heat youngsters. “I just don’t know if Boston is athletic enough to deal with this team,” Legler said. “Because LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are doing what they want to do. They’re getting to the place on the court they want to get to. They’re getting there quicker than Boston has a chance to react.

“I think it’s the first time since this [Celtics] group’s been together, since ’08, that their defense doesn’t look as quick or as suffocating as it normally is. And I think a lot of that has to do with how fast and how quickly Miami gets to their spots offensively, and how they beat you off the dribble. And they’re getting to the rim and they’re getting to places before the help defender can get there. We’re not used to seeing that against this Boston team. And I think that speaks directly to the athleticism involved with the Miami Heat and that might be eventually the undoing for the Celtics in this series. They’re just not athletic enough to deal with this.”

Legler was asked about the Kendrick Perkins trade and how the center would impact the series were he still a Celtic. Said Legler: “Kendrick Perkins would definitely have an impact, and a healthy Shaquille O’Neal would have a similar impact. No. 1, just taking up space, being physical, moving bodies around the rim. You seal off those little pockets that you see Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh and some of the offensive rebounds they’ve gotten. I don’t think that they would be getting those if you have Kendrick Perkins in there or you have a healthy Shaq.

“Finishing plays around the basket — Perkins was never a great offensive player, but he got much better at it as he grew with the Boston Celtics. And Shaq has a 60 percent field goal percentage through his career. He’s going to make some of the shots right now that are being missed through the first two games, because they’re point-blank. He’s going to finish, he’s going to power through people. He’s not a guy that can move very well out on the floor, but just as far as anchoring the paint on both ends, they absolutely miss that physical presence.

“The depleted front line of the Boston Celtics just doesn’t do anything to to intimidate Miami.”

Read More: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Joel Anthony, Kendrick Perkins Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Carlos Arroyo active for Game 1, Shaq gets closer 05.01.11 at 3:09 pm ET
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MIAMI — There was a change in the Celtics 12 man active roster but it didn’t involve Shaquille O’Neal.

Carlos Arroyo is in and Sasha Pavlovic is out for Game 1. Teams can change their 12-man active list before every game.

“He knows this team,” Doc Rivers said. “He was in their training camp. He was in their practice. He knows their personnel. I just thought he may be able to help us in some way.”

As for Shaq, Rivers said that he remains a possibility for Game 2, if not Game 3 back in Boston.

“He’s getting close,” Rivers said. “We actually had to make a decision so that’s better than what we had to do in the past. Maybe next game, if not I would say for sure Game 3.”

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Irish Coffee: Celtics vs. Heat tale of the tape 04.29.11 at 1:03 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Not much needs to be said about what this second-round series means to the Celtics or the Heat. Regardless of what they say, I’m pretty sure the Celtics don’t like the Heat, and vice versa. The only guy I’m not sure about is Eddie House. I don’t know if he likes anybody. But, as he told the Miami Herald, “We match up great.” So, let’s go to the tape …

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Celtics 3, Heat 1

90.5 … points … 92.3
12.0 … fast break points … 10.0
34.5 … points in the paint … 33.5
47.3 … FG% … 44.7
45.3 … 3P% … 28.6
71.5 … FT% … 74.0
35.8 … rebounds … 39.8
7.3 … o-rebounds … 11.5
28.5 … d-rebounds … 28.3
21.0 … assists … 18.5
6.5 … steals … 6.5
1.8 … blocks … 4.3
13.8 … turnovers … 15.8
22.3 … personal fouls … 20.3

Obviously, that point differential is swayed significantly by the Heat’s 100-77 victory in their fourth and final meeting of the regular season. Still, despite the Heat outscoring the Celtics 44-26 in the paint and 12-3 on the fast break in that game, the C’s still owned the advantage in those categories — in addition to their significant edge in 3-point shooting.

While offensive rebounding is always a concern for the Celtics, I wouldn’t worry too much about rebounding overall, considering the two teams played fairly even on the defensive glass and the Heat’s lower field-goal percentage meant more opportunities for offensive boards. The Celtics shot better and took care of the ball better — two huge categories in their favor.

Where Miami can win this series is at the free-throw line. They averaged five more trips to the charity stripe per game, and we all know how often LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get to the line –deservedly or not.

Now, let’s examine how the Celtics and Heat produced this season (league ranks in parentheses):

Read the rest of this entry »

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Danny Ainge on Big Show: Shaq can’t give us 12 minutes right now 04.28.11 at 5:17 pm ET
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Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O’Neal will try to practice on Friday and the Celtics haven’t given up hope that he will be able to come back from his Achilles injury before the playoffs are over, but they also don’t want to put him in a position to play him before he’s ready.

“Right now he could not give us 12 minutes,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said on The Big Show Thursday afternoon. “We want Shaq healthy. If Shaq could give us 12 minutes in the first game without jeopardizing the following game he would probably be out there doing that but he’s not ready to do that yet.”

Ainge said the team was hopeful and that O’Neal was making progress, but they just don’t when he’ll be able to return.

“I wish I had an answer to that one,” Ainge said. “He looks better today. There’s progress. We’re still hopeful that he’ll be ready to play but it’s just taking longer to heal, or taking a while to heal and Shaq was determined to play Game 1 of the first playoff series and it’s just not been that way. He could probably go out and some thing but I’m not sure he could help much.”

Here are some other highlights from the conversation: Read the rest of this entry »

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