Saturday, May 7, 2011

Shaquille O'Neal plays for Boston, but as a reserve, not a starter

BOSTON — At age 39, Shaquille O'Neal experienced something for the first time as a professional.

He came off the bench in a post-season game.

Prior to Saturday, O'Neal had played in 214 playoff contests, all as a starter. During the regular season, he has played in 1,207 games, all but 10 as a starter.

Still, Boston coach Doc Rivers chose to stick with Jermaine O'Neal as the Celtics' starting center.

Rivers hoped that Shaq's presence would force the Heat to adjust on the fly in Game 3.

"There are a lot of defensive changes you have to make with him on the floor," Rivers said.

With Shaquille O'Neal playing just five minutes since Feb. 1 - his latest injury was to his calf - Rivers admitted he had "truly no idea" what to expect.

He waited until 2:41 remained in the first quarter to sub in the center, along with forward Glen Davis and guard Delonte West.

The Boston crowd greeted the announcement with an ovation, and O'Neal scored on an up-and-under move with a minute left in the quarter.

Just 55 seconds later, he was back on the bench.

Even with O'Neal active, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra chose not to activate center Erick Dampier. Instead, Juwan Howard and Jamaal Magloire were in uniform, as they have been the entire playoffs.


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