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“Just wait until Shaq gets back” is legitimate argument for Boston

Apr 9, 2011, 5:45 PM EDT

Boston Celtics v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls made their statement Thursday. Right now, the Bulls are the better team. If Thursday had been Game 1 of a seven-game series the Celtics would be in trouble.

After the game, Kevin Garnett talked about Boston having another gear for the playoffs. Their fans are counting on that. That those days off between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs — plus the end of back-to-backs — will mean the veteran team will have fresher legs. That their savvy and understanding of what it takes in the playoffs will lift them to another level that a team like Chicago does not yet grasp.

They also have a trump card — Shaquille O’Neal.

That card is a legitimate play, but we will not see it for at least a couple more games. CSN New England is reporting that Shaq will be out Sunday against Miami and Monday against Washington. Wednesday against New York is still a question mark. Shaq is expected back for the playoffs.

When healthy he changes the game for the Celtics — the team defense remains good but the offense takes a big step forward. John Schuhmann at NBA.com did the heavy lifting on the numbers.

O’Neal has played with the other four Celtics starters in just 18 games. But they were 15-3 in those games and 9-1 against playoff teams. With that lineup intact, they beat the Heat twice, and they beat the Knicks, Bulls, Magic and Lakers.

Of lineups that have logged at least 200 minutes together, the Celtics’ lineup of Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Garnett and O’Neal has been the second-most dominant…

First, let’s be clear, those Boston wins were in the first half of the season. They would face very different Heat, Bulls and Lakers teams now. (Knicks too, not sure it would matter there, though.) But Schuhmann’s point is valid still — Boston’s starting five with Shaq in the lineup outscored opponents by 19.1 points per 100 possessions. Swap in the also injured at times Glen Davis in that with the Celtics big four and they are up 17 points per 100 possessions. (The most dominant lineup, by the way, was the Mavericks lineup with Caron Butler.)

What Shaq brings is an inside scoring presence that Boston lacks right now, allowing teams to stick tighter with players on the perimeter.

And on the offensive end of the floor, where the Celtics have been struggling most over the last month, is where Shaq can help the Celtics most. The lineup of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett and O’Neal has shot a ridiculous 58 percent from the field (easily the highest among five-man units that have played 200 minutes together). And with O’Neal on the floor, Allen (38-for-69) and Pierce (30-for-59) have combined to shoot an incredible 53 percent from 3-point range.

There are legitimate questions about how much Shaq can give or if he can stay healthy. There are legitimate questions about if this year the dip is about father time catching up with Boston in a way it did not in previous years. Those questions can only be answered once the playoffs start.

But Boston does have another gear in them once Shaq returns to the lineup. And that gear may be one the other teams in the East cannot match.

  1. zackd2 - Apr 9, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    Replace “until” with “if and then it’s a legit argument

  2. therookie773 - Apr 9, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    I don’t think Shaq will be that much of a factor come playoff time. Look how fast he got injured the same day he came back. In a perfect scenario they will make the conference finals and that’s when Shaq is done being effective. However, I’m quite sure they will play him as little as possible in the first two rounds if they can.

  3. gmsingh - Apr 9, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    I agree with this post–Shaq can knock so many dudes out of the paint with his humongous ass that it can be a game changer.

  4. 00maltliquor - Apr 9, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    Waiting for Shaq to come back is like waiting for Jesus to come back. You know eventually it will happen, and everyones telling you to get ready for it, but dont hold your breath cause this has been said over and over again but you’ve yet to see this “miracle” happen!

  5. philtration - Apr 9, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    Please.
    This was the same stuff we all heard about the Cavs last season.
    Shaq was washed up a few years ago and this 2010-2011 version is just a ghost of the player he once was.
    The Bulls are deep at Center and Power Forward so they can foul Shaq and then watch him heave up those famous bricks.They can also run him into the ground or yet another injury.
    If he faces Orlando then Dwight Howard will eat him alive.
    Can he chase Chris Bosh away from the basket to keep him from scoring 20 points?
    No.

    Shaq is a non-factor and has been for a while now.
    If the Celtics are hoping that he is the answer then they are delusional.

  6. andyhr17 - Apr 9, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    Why the he’ll do you think the Celtics would have Shaquille guarding Chris Bosh?

    Just wait until Rondo has to guard Dwight Howard, he’ll eat him alive….

  7. analysisofthenba - Apr 10, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    Lets take this play by play.
    Lets compare Shaq to the Centers of possible threats for the Celtics.

    Andrew Bynum – Having a phenomanal year, avreging almost 10 rebounds pergame.
    EVERY SINGLE GAME THE SHAQ HAS PLAYED WITH ANDREW HE HAS OUT SCORED HIM AND OUTPLAYED HIM. Many Laker fans, may turn the stats sheets away and say Andrew gives a momentum that can’t be displayed. Sadly (for them), Andrew’s shoot percentage decreases 29%when versing Shaq. The only other Center or player that can do tis is Dwight Howard.

    This is my favorite part supposedly the new superman. Shaq is cripled with age however, he is the only person in the NBA that can hold Howard down. “My biggest competition on the court will definatly by Shaq, he just still has that power”. That qoute was this christmas.

    Maimi Heat- Mr.Z … who? exactly.

    Spurs- An old team(like the Celtics), that lacks body. Shaq has body, healthy or not.

    Bulls- Noah…a great talent. He can and will definatly grab the defensive rebounds over shaq thats what he does and he will continue to do so. Still he has no way to stop the 7’1 body with the offensive skill or force to stop the quick and easy points Saq can give. If Shaq played against the Bulls D-Rose(The most deserving candidate for MVP) would not have cut through to the rim at that ease. NO POSSIBLE WAY.

    As far as health goes… Doctors continually say his muscle has all ready released; in fact if he wants he could play at 90% right now. And thats all they need. Celtics are a stacked team already. They have clinched their spot and are waiting on a 100% Shaq. And that will happen! Like it or not Shaq has pulled through in the moments that count. For those who bring up the Cavs season last year obviously dont remember the 26 pt 4 block 14 rebound performance Shaq gave in the playoffs(It was Lebron who choked).

    Shaq is a washed up player; yes. But people quickly mask his age for his still great game. He will never be the player he once was. However that doesn’t mean he is not a GOOD player right now.
    Shaq is and will be a factor to he Celtics gameplay. After coming back from an injury he projects 6 points in less than 5 mins. This injury will be the last one for O’neal this season; he is rested and will show his precence in the Celtics. He is the key factor for the Championsip, mark my words; Celtics will dominate the playoffs with the help of Shaq, Rondo, Ray, KG, and Paul.

    • scorp16 - Apr 10, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      Miami is in the best shape to deal with Shaq.
      No, they have no center that can guard him.
      No, Miami has no real inside presence.

      However, what they do have….is 24 fouls. Dampier, Magliore, Anthony, Z,

      What’s the quickest way to stiffle a Celtic run? Put Shaq on the line.

      His free throws can be a game changer (and not in a good way).

      Ask the Laker and Heat fans.

      You think Jackson or Riley/Spolstra don’t know this. They’ll use Shaq’s prolific free throw ability to change the tempo and complexity of the game.

      You can talk about the 19.1 per 100 possessions all you want. There wasn’t a need to employ the Hack-a-Shaq in those early season games. Playoffs are a different story.

      The real story here should be how Ainge’s decision to trade Perkins is impacting the Celtics playoff potential to the point of making Shaq seem like the saviour.

  8. andrejohnsonforpresident - Apr 10, 2011 at 1:51 AM

    You’re all crazy if you don’t think shaq is still a a factor in the game. He was one of the most dominate players in nba history. Shaq was a big reason kobe couldn’t get a ring for several years. I bet he’s just taking time off and the celtics don’t care; they will make the playoffs in a great position and if they can use big baby glen davis a long with both O’neals they’re a hard team to beat. Shaq has an array of offense moves that most teams can’t stop even at this age. Plus Shaqs a big body on the court; if he can learn to play to stay healthy and not put his body in bad situations he will be fine.

    • zackd2 - Apr 10, 2011 at 9:35 AM

      “if he can learn to play to stay healthy and not put his body in bad situations he will be fine.”

      Again, “IF” is the key word there. 39 year old olds don’t learn how to suddenly stay healthy.

  9. davidly - Apr 10, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    I’m sure that Boston fans of a hopeful and/or confident nature look at Shaquille O’Neal as being able to make a difference somewhere along the line: a great game here; a slam dunk and a foul there.

    But the waiting for the other shoe to drop kind of fan more likely envisions him having to sit because he’s too tired to run any center playing away from the basket and/or getting called for a defensive three-seconds in crunch time.

    Only Father Time will tell.

  10. corharper - Apr 10, 2011 at 5:59 AM

    Clearly, this is a weak argument. Unless the Phoenix Suns’ team trainers and doctors are moon lighting (or according to Around the Horn’s infamous phrase “walking through that door”), then Shaq’s contribution is limited.

    This may be his last year, but Shaq will provide some defense and provide six fouls for Doc Rivers’ discretion.

  11. zackd2 - Apr 10, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    2008-09: “IF KG was healthy we would have won.”
    2009-10: “IF Perkins was healthy we would have won.”
    2010-11: “IF Shaq is healthy we will win.”

  12. miamiwinning - Apr 11, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    would of should of blah blah blah ! But didnt !

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