Shaq’s Health Holds Series in the Balance

Shaquille O'Neal is likely to be dressed sharply again for game 2

If you want to talk x-factor’s, there probably isn’t more of an x-factor than Shaquille O’Neal. They might as well put his picture beside the definition on Urban Dictionary. Then the kids will understand.

Shaq has been struggling with calf problems the past three months and his missed all five Celtic playoff games so far. Even though Shaq scrimmaged on Monday he is considered doubtful for game 2 against the Heat.

There’s an awful lot of fuss over a 39-year-old guy who averaged just over 20 minutes a game this season in 37 games. Too bad for the Celtics there is a good reason behind all the worry.

With all the intriguing position matchups the return of a healthy Shaq could represent a shift in the balance of power. Advantage Boston.

For 20 minutes a game the Heat will have no one that can stand up to the Big Diesel.

The lesser of the two O’Neal’s, Jermaine, has done a decent enough job for a guy who was supposed to be, at best, the third string center on the Celtics. Like Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal could probably also pass off as 39 year’s old out on the court. However, various health issues have taken the explosiveness out of the former perennial all-star.

The extended minutes that Jermaine has been getting are not ideal yet with Nenad Kristic only seeing 5:41 of floor time in game 1, the Celtics are going to need another solid performance from big baby-faced O’Neal.

Solid might not be enough for the Celtics though.

This is where Shaq comes in. His benefit goes far beyond the lane presence he provides. With Ilgauskas or Anthony “clogging” the lane for the Heat, Shaq forces the defence to pay attention to him. He might not have the scoring prowess that he did just two years ago but he still has the ability to take some of the pressure off of his teammates. That ability could be the difference in a game.

No matter which way you spin it, the relief his teammates receive is greater than whatever Jermaine O’Neal can offer.

Shaq even put up 18 points early in the year against the vertically endowed Memphis Grizzlies.

The mind-boggling trade of Kendrick Perkins has put the Celtics in a tough spot. Part of the reasoning behind that trade must have been the confidence in Danny Ainge that they would only face scoring challenged big men. No Dwight Howard, no problem.

I guess that plan hinged on the insurance of a healthy Shaquille O’Neal.

Maybe Danny Ainge was also thinking the lack of quality size in the Eastern Conference should allow Shaquille O’Neal to be enough of a difference maker. That plan still holds water as there is nothing to suggest that Shaq isn’t the man who holds the final key to the series.

Boston’s closing line-up may not feature a true center but if they are constantly having to claw their way back from double-digit deficits it really isn’t too important that their 4th quarter line-up features Big Baby instead of the Big Aristotle.

Doc Rivers says Shaq may be “likely” to play in game 3 at Boston. With the window of opportunity closing in on the original big three they had better hope that the 4-time champion is ready to go by Saturday.

Related: Shaq to the Celtics. Sure, why not?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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7 Responses to Shaq’s Health Holds Series in the Balance

  1. tophatal says:

    Chris Ross

    Shaq’s health has more to do with his lazy ass not being in shape and not in any way shape or form will it having a bearing on this series at all ! The Celtics are outmatched and out gunned in the series and it’s through no fault of their own . Team GM Ainge was naive to think that the team would be better with the loss of Perkins and Robinson . And that has manifest itself in the overall poor play of the Celtics through the latter part of the regular season and in this series so far .

    tophatal ……………

  2. Paul says:

    Great post bro. I dont think miami can match shaq’s size with Z, bosh or anthony. I said it on my post too, shaq’s impact is key to boston sucess.

  3. Shaq is shot and has been since he left Phoenix.

  4. Shaq’s the X-Factor for sure. I mean, he’s not like any other 39-year old out there. Without him, the C’s are toast. But, Shaq was healthy for Game 2 but Doc Rivers gave him a rest because of the aftereffects of practicing. I hope he comes back in Game 3. He’s one of the best entertainers there is in the NBA.

  5. Bobby Charts says:

    I dont know why Celtics traded away Perkins. Like alot of GM moves, didnt make sense. I swear some of us could run teams better than these Gm’s. good read Chris!

  6. Brophy says:

    Perk hasn’t exactly been stellar in the playoffs for OKC. The Cs certainly miss a big man who clogs the middle and understands the defensive scheme. Shaq can be that guy. If Shaq is there the Perk trade looks great because they do not have anyone else that can play Jeff Green;s minutes right now. I would like to see Green use those minutes a little better, but all in all your point is spot on. Shaq could very well decide this series even if it is only with 12 strong defensive minutes.

  7. Forcing an old out of shape Shaq into this series will do nothing but increase the Heats chances of finished off the C’s quickly. I wish he was playing when the Knicks were the opponent, may have been able to pull one out then.

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