The players will say it is not a big game. But it is. At least as far as the regular season goes, it is.
But the Celtics’ injury door to the trainer’s room keeps on revolving.
C-Train vs Magic Bus
The 30-9 Boston Celtics will take on the 26-14 Orlando Magic tonight in Boston at the TD Garden. But it might not be Superman versus Superman Generation Two. Old School Superman Shaquille O’Neal fell on some ice and did not practice yesterday. Darn. Just when they needed him most. He is not officially out yet, but it doesn’t sound good.
Shaquille O’Neal spent his time in the trainer’s room after slipping on snow and ice yesterday morning. (Shaq was treated for an adductor injury in his upper leg)…
But Kevin Garnett is close to finally playing after being out 8 games himself. The Celtics are 6-2 in his absence.
Rivers on Kevin Garnett…
“He was great,” said coach Doc Rivers. “He went through the whole practice. I think Kevin will go (tonight), but, again, we went through practice to see if he could go (tonight) — meaning we’ll know that by (today). If he feels good, he’ll go. If there’s anything, he will not go.
Garnett has been lobbying to play for a few games now, but the Celtics are taking a cautious approach to their injuries this season, in spite of a sense of urgency for home court advantage. This game comes in just a tad bit higher on the ‘importance’ scale.
Shaq would have been rested after coming off possibly his biggest game of the season with 23 points on 10 of 12 shooting and 5 blocks in a victory over Kwame Brown, Nazr Mohammed and the Bobcats last Friday night.
Dwight Howard will offer far more problems in the middle than a bakers dozen of the Bobcat centers. A defensive force, Howard is truly one of the league’s most dominant centers, and with Jermaine O’Neal’s knee sore again and O’Neal contemplating surgery, Shaq is the only O’Neal available and only real answer the Celtics have for Howard with Kendrick Perkins also out.
It was their first match on Christmas Day that earned Shaq just 13 foul proned minutes of playing time and a $35,000 fine for sarcastically commenting afterwards about one specific referee.
Speaking of foul proned… rookie Semih Erden will have his hands full and Glen Davis will probably log some minutes against Dwight as well. Davis can do well in short stretches against Howard if he pushes him out beyond his comfort zone.
That the Magic are rejuvenated from a mid-season trade is an understatement. They recently ripped off a 9 game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 12 games. Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jason Richardson were obtained in 2 separate trades on December 18th for the then 16-10 Magic and have helped provide the spark since then.
While there have been a number of changes in how the team plays with the revamped roster, one of them is that they no longer have Marcin Gortat to come off the bench anymore when Howard rests or is in foul trouble. That is where Shaq could have come in handy, getting Howard in foul trouble and/or playing against any undersized second stringers.
Having Garnett back is huge. He is the catalyst for the defense, provides needed rebounding and adds some post play offensively.
Miami Heat Losses Buy Celtics Time
With a 2 game faltering recently, Boston briefly lost their place atop the east to a surging Miami Heat team. But like with two pure bred race horses, any slight injury can make a big difference in how they race and with Miami more so. Miami lost LeBron James to a twisted ankle and have stumbled, losing 3 in a row. That puts the Celtics back up a precious game and a half on Miami for HCA in the east. The Heat are now 30-12.
Even with all the injuries, the Celtics are still leading, though the possible full time loss of Jermaine O’Neal, coupled with the need to rest the 38 year old Shaq will hurt… if Jermaine gets surgery.
With Shaq and Jermaine most likely out for this game, it will require some outstanding play from Erden, Davis and KG, I would assume to defend against Howard. I can’t see them throwing Luke Harangody at Dwight, but it might just happen. In that case he will get plenty of help, I’d assume.
No stranger to technical fouls, maybe Howard can take himself out of the game. Either way, expect a good game between two of the east’s best teams.