Talk it out
It's been quite some time since Shaquille O'Neal stepped onto the court -- and when he did, he didn't last long. He's played just a little over five minutes since February 4th, with those five minutes coming on April 3, and ending in a strained right calf that shelved him until now.
But his impact in this game is yet to be determined, and something that Doc Rivers won't put a finger on prior to the game -- not even a minutes-played cap.
"I have no idea," Doc Rivers said. "With him, it will just be the eye test. Whatever you think he can handle you'll give him as long as he's playing well."
When Shaq did play on that April 3 night, he was all over the place. It was almost like he didn't skip a beat with the team. But is that something the C's don't want to see out of him tonight? Not necessarily.
"Go ahead and dive in, we don't mind that," Rivers said. "But just be you. Obviously Shaq can do things that he could do 15 years ago, and when he does that he doesn't play as well. But when he comes in and fills the role for this team he's terrific for us, and that's what we hope he can do."
One thing is for sure; Shaq's presence on the court will be a breath of fresh air not only to the fans but to the players, and could spark the team for short periods when he does play.
"I'm excited for him to be out on the floor, obviously ... I'm excited to have him out there personally," Ray Allen said. "I don't know what he's going to feel like on the floor, if he's going to have great wind, how it's going to work - so it's going to be interesting."
Perhaps Shaq can help with the Celtics' lack of offensive rhythm, something that Allen believes is the most pressing issue with the team through the first two games.
"Us having a better offensive rhythm affects how they score or not score," he said. "Putting them in transition, giving them easier buckets, taking care of the ball, exhaust the second and third option, get great shots, make their defense work a little bit harder."
It's true, the C's have looked pretty lost on offense out there at times, and you have to credit the Heat defense in that case. But the Heat being set the way they are is because the C's are allowing them to be -- by playing poorly on their own defensive end.
"I would say defense first," Rivers said as the number one issue tonight, "but then second would be rhythm on offense. But they're all tied together, they really are. If we're not getting stops and they're getting transition buckets, if they're getting offensive rebounds, and then they're going to the foul line, they get to set their defense every single time down the floor. And there goes your rhythm."
The Celtics have had plenty of time to look over all the things they did wrong in Games 1 and 2. After all, they haven't played since Tuesday. That could be a good thing or a bad thing for this team, and it remains to be seen.
"It's definitely one of those times where you have a schedule break you want to go into that schedule breaks where you're playing well or you're winning games," Allen said. "You don't' want to come into it down two games, but we had an opportunity to just rest up and watch a lot of film. So we're home - I think if we're up two we still come out like gangbusters.
Down 0-2 in a series is something this team has never experienced together before, but Allen insists that the approach doesn't change whether they're down two games or up two games.
"I believe when we came out in game 3 against New York, we had a lot of urgency. It doesn't change. Right now we take everything that we learned in our losses, as well as what when we won games in the past, you take what you did wrong and you try to improve on it."