Hope you're sitting down, Celtics fans. We have some big news for you.
Shaquille O'Neal might play in Saturday night's Game 3 of the C's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Heat at TD Garden.
Prior to Friday's short practice, coach Doc Rivers told ESPN Boston that he thought the C's, "need to go live and go pretty hard. And I think Shaq needs it, so it will be great for him."
Ah, but we wouldn't miss the caveat. Not when Shaq has been in "maybe tomorrow" mode for well over three months now. So of course, after saying on Thursday that he expected "every single guy, including Shaq, to play," on Saturday, Rivers said on Friday, "I can't guarantee anything because of practice and the next day, but I am very confident he'll play."
Well past the point of ludicrous, the daily Shaq updates are now not only comical but as predictable as the sun rising. One has to feel for Rivers, who probably wishes he didn't have to say the same thing every day regarding his erstwhile big man. The bottom line is, until Shaq is actually in uniform and on the floor during a game, there is no reason whatsoever to believe he will play.
In other injury news, Paul Pierce said he feels good after a few days of work on his Achilles strain suffered in Game 2 on Tuesday night and intimated to the fine ESPN Boston folks that he expects to have an impact on Saturday night's proceedings.
"Paul Pierce being in the game in the fourth quarter is always going to help the Celtics," said the captain, exercising his third-person reference muscles. "And healthy."
Elsewhere, Rivers pointed out that all of the minor injuries suffered by various Celts in Game 2 are just that, minor. Ray Allen (chest) Rajon Rondo (back) and Jermaine O'Neal (back) all look to be good to go for Game 3.
Having everyone healthy, of course, is a big deal. But being healthy and performing out on the floor are two different things. Kevin Garnett, not anywhere near the injury report, will have to improve on shooting 11-of-29 over the series first two games. Pierce (11-of-25 in Games 1 and 2) must not only score more than 16 points per game but get rolling earlier in the action than he has in the first two games. Rondo, much better in Game 2 than in Game 1, has to dominate his matchup with the Heat's point guard duo of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers.
And, perhaps most importantly, the Celts have to find a way to at least slow down LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, who took turns running the C's out of the gym in the first two games and are averaging 61.5 PPG. The Heat shot 47 percent from the floor in Game 1 and 45 percent in Game 2 and are averaging 100.5 points in the two games. That's quite a far cry from the league-leading 91.1 points per game allowed by the Celts D in the regular season. Getting better, more consistent performances from Garnett, Pierce and Rondo will help immensely. But the Celts bearing down on the defensive end and more closely resembling the defensive juggernaut of not only this past season, but the past four seasons, will dictate whether or not they can get back in this series.