Celtics

Rivers: Shaq doubtful for Game 5

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Rivers: Shaq doubtful for Game 5

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI So much for that lift the Boston Celtics were supposed to get from Shaquille O'Neal off the bench.

Coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday morning that the 7-foot-1 center re-aggravated his right Achillescalf injury in Game 4 and is doubtful to play in tonight's pivotal Game 5.

Boston trails 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, and will be eliminated if the Heat win.

O'Neal played less than four minutes - all in the first half - of Boston's 98-90 overtime loss to the Heat.

"That little stretch in the first half, it just got worse," Rivers said.

Rivers added, "It's nothing he can do. It's not like he isn't trying. He's done everything you can possibly do to get healthy. Unfortunately for him, he just hasn't been able to do it."

O'Neal first began missing games because of the injury back in December.

At first, the C's didn't think it was that big a deal, with him expected to only miss a handful of games.

After sitting out four games with a calf injury in December, O'Neal returned to play in 17 straight before re-aggravating the injury against Utah on Jan. 21.

From there, O'Neal missed three games, returned to play in three straight, and once again, the right calfAchilles bothered him to the point where he could not play.

Concerned that his injury might linger into the postseason, the Celtics opted to shut him down for the next 27 games.

His return on April 3 against Detroit was a short-lived one, as O'Neal once again re-aggravated the right leg injuries after logging about five minutes of action.

He played sparingly in Games 3 and 4 against Miami, but had little to no impact on the outcome of either game.

"It just never healed, and still hasn't," Rivers said. "Every time he plays now, it gets worse. There's nothing you can do about it."

As the oldest player in the NBA this season, it stands to reason that O'Neal may very well never play in the NBA again.

He signed a two-year deal with the Celtics last fall, with an option to come back for a second season.

The way his body has broken down this season, the choice may have already been made for him.

"It's too early to talk about it now," Rivers said. "I've learned personally you never make any decisions during the heat of battle. You're always gong to make the wrong choice. I think he'll walk away for the summer, and decide what he wants to do. I just know this has been emotionally draining to him, more than you guys would know. He feels awful about this. This is why he came here, to get to the playoffs. And not being able to do that, has really hurt him."

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

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

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