Shaq has a strained right calf, and it's unclear when he'll return. But the C's have plenty of depth at the big man positions — Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal and Glen Davis are holding down the fort until Shaq is back once again.
Kevin Garnett finishes with 23 points and eight rebounds to lead the Celtics; Paul Pierce adds 22 and six. Will Bynum has 20 to lead five Pistons in double figures.
The Celtics hit the practice floor Monday, then return to the TD Garden floor on Tuesday night to host the Philadelphia 76ers.
Fourth quarter, 1:32, Celtics 98-85: That should just about do it. The C's get a couple of buckets inside — one from Glen Davis, another from Kevin Garnett.
The C's appear headed to win No. 53 of the season.
Fourth quarter, 3:29, Celtics 94-83: The Pistons won't go away. Will Bynum steals the ball from Kevin Garnett, and he quickly takes it from coast to coast for a layup. The lead has been cut from 16 to 11.
The Celtics still need a few more stops. They can't close up shop just yet.
Fourth quarter, 6:11, Celtics 90-77: Jeff Green is playing like a barrel of energy tonight. Incredible sequence — he dashes from coast to coast to finish an alley-oop from Delonte West, he falls flat on his face finishing the dunk, and then he bolts back to the other end and quickly grabs a defensive rebound.
Green has been everywhere in this game. He's only got four points and four rebounds, but his effort has been off the charts.
Fourth quarter, 8:55, Celtics 84-73: Now it's a 7-0 Detroit run. Villanueva knocks down another jumper, and Doc Rivers is starting to get nervous. He calls a timeout.
It might be time to dust off the starters and create a little more separation. Don't want to see this game get too close for comfort.
Fourth quarter, 9:34, Celtics 84-70: The Pistons are still showing a little fight. They answer the Celtics' 17-2 run with a quick little 4-0 burst of their own. Charlie Villanueva makes a nice little move to get into the lane and drain a smooth floater.
The C's are hoping they can rest Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen for the rest of the night. But if the Pistons keep scoring, they shouldn't hold their breath.
End of third quarter, Celtics 82-66: The C's close the quarter on a 15-2 run. They've turned a nailbiter into a blowout, real quick.
Paul Pierce now has 22 points; Kevin Garnett has 21. Rajon Rondo has 13 assists.
The C's are 12 minutes away from proving they can still tread water without Shaquille O'Neal.
Third quarter, 1:43, Celtics 80-64: The Celtics are moving the ball like champions. Rajon Rondo just found Delonte West wide open on the wing; rather than rush a 3, Delonte just swings the ball into the paint to an open KG. Slam dunk.
The C's are on a 13-0 run. Given how well they're executing, it's amazing it's not even more.
Third quarter, 4:01, Celtics 74-64: It's pretty easy to push this one into double digits — just don't miss shots. The Celtics are now 10-for-13 in the third quarter, including 3-for-4 from long distance.
Paul Pierce just connected on another 3. He's now got 22 points to lead the way for the Celtics.
If the C's keep shooting like this, then it's lights out. Game over. Forget about it.
Third quarter, 5:56, Celtics 67-60: It's raining 3s at the TD Garden. First Paul Pierce knocks one down, then Ray Allen hits another. That'll widen the Celtics' lead in a hurry.
The C's aren't taking a lot of 3s, but they're making them. They're 5-for-6. Not bad at all.
The Pistons are 6-of-10 from long range. Not bad either.
Third quarter, 7:45, Celtics 59-56: Rajon Rondo misses a layup — he's now 2-for-7 — but KG cleans up his mess, grabbing the rebound and putting it back in. Draws a foul to boot.
Solid night for KG so far — he's got 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, plus five rebounds.
Correction — 15 points. He finishes the three-point play.
Third quarter, 10:19, Celtics 53-50: The C's are generating lots of points inside. KG and Jermaine O'Neal have each scored in the first two minutes of the second half.
Shaq is done for the night. The C's aren't going to rush him back in and risk aggravating the injury, so he's not coming back.
But in this matchup, he may not be needed. KG and J.O. appear to be doing just fine.
Halftime, Celtics 49-48: The Celtics are without Shaquille O'Neal at the moment, but they're still doing OK. They're shooting well, they're dominating on the glass, and they've got a one-point lead over the Pistons at the break.
Paul Pierce leads the way for Boston with 14 points; Kevin Garnett has eight with four rebounds, and Rajon Rondo has four with six assists.
Tayshaun Prince has 14 for the Pistons. He's 3-for-3 from long distance.
Shaq may still return to this game. The Celtics are evaluating his status in the locker room as we speak.
Second quarter, 3:19, Celtics 44-39: The C's have improved their edge on the glass to 16-8. Jermaine O'Neal — remember him? — leads the way with four boards.
The Celtics have done a very good job of playing through the distraction of this Shaq injury. They're not letting it drag them down.
No excuses in April. These guys know they have to bear down and win ballgames.
Second quarter, 5:29, 36-36: The Celtics continue to play very well in the paint without Shaq. They're outrebounding the Pistons 13-7, and they've got a 16-14 edge in points in the paint.
The C's have plenty of depth behind Shaquille. They can survive this.
Second quarter, 8:39, Celtics 30-29: The Celtics are holding their own without Shaquille O'Neal. They haven't allowed a single point in the second quarter, in fact. The second unit has looked really solid in limiting the Pistons' open looks.
Some credit is due to Jermaine O'Neal. He's not filling up the stat sheet, but he's making big plays on D to give the Celtics an edge in this game.
Second quarter, 11:11, Pistons 29-28: Shaquille O'Neal's debut didn't last long. The big fella just limped off the floor, headed straight for the locker room. Looks like he's in a lot of pain.
This can't be good. The C's were hoping Shaq could handle six or seven minutes in a row, but he clearly didn't respond well.
Updates to come on Shaq's status.
End of first quarter, Pistons 29-26: Shaq is back, and we've already seen a little good, a little bad and a little ugly.
Shaq has six points and one rebound early — he's a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor.
He also fell down finishing a simple layup attempt, and he made a careless turnover trying to hit Delonte West with a no-look pass.
The guy hasn't played in months. I guess you've got to take the bad with the good.
Aside from the whole Shaq thing, the other story of this first quarter has been the scoring outburst of Tayshaun Prince. The Pistons' small forward has 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting.
First quarter, 1:47, Celtics 24-23: You've got to hand it to this Boston crowd — they've been tough on their O'Neals these last few months, but they sure sound forgiving tonight. Both big men have gotten nice ovations at the Garden.
Shaq is a big hit already. He's got four points in his first three minutes, and the crowd is loving it.
First quarter, 4:11, Celtics 17-16: Shaquille O'Neal has entered the ballgame, and he's already made a big impact. He scores on his very first possession, getting an easy bucket inside, and on his first play on the other end, he forces a turnover out of Chris Wilcox.
No rust here. This guy's ready to play.
First quarter, 5:34, Celtics 13-12: Jermaine O'Neal isn't playing very well. First he tries to drive to the basket but is stifled by Chris Wilcox, who slaps the ball loose; then on the other end, Greg Monroe schools him and gets to the basket. J.O. fouls him.
This would be a perfect opportunity to pull J.O. and let Shaq see a few minutes instead. But it looks like Doc Rivers will go in another direction — he's dipping into his bench for Glen Davis instead.
First quarter, 6:22, Pistons 12-11: The Pistons are holding their own so far, getting a pair of 3s from Tayshaun Prince to put them back in front.
The Celtics are shooting 5-of-7 so far, which is pretty great, but when you throw in the three turnovers, their efficiency is a little lacking. They've got to step their game up.
First quarter, 9:33, 4-4: Rondo is getting Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen both lots of touches early. The C's have been quick to expose a couple of gaping holes in Detroit's defense.
Allen has four points early — two on the early jumper, two on a baseline cut past Rip Hamilton to the basket.
He's also got a cut on the back of his head from where Rip fouled him. He'll have to come out of the game and get that cleaned up.
First quarter, 11:43, Celtics 2-0: The Celtics start off on the right foot. J.O. wins the opening tip, Rajon Rondo gets the ball, and he quickly feeds Ray Allen for an open jumper on the wing. Swish.
Good to see Rondo getting Ray going early. The Celtics' shooting guard has been struggling of late to find his shooting touch, and this could be the beginning of the end for his slump.
6:10 p.m.: Jermaine O'Neal has been introduced as the Celtics' starter. Shaquille is on the bench in warmup gear, ready to rumble.
We haven't seen these two guys on the floor together in many, many months. It's a refreshing sight.
Let's see if it translates to a win.
5:30 p.m.: This just in: Shaq will play, but he's coming off the bench. Jermaine O'Neal will get the start, and Doc Rivers will go with a backup front line of Shaq and Glen Davis.
Rivers admitted during his pregame media session that bringing Shaq back for a few short bursts at the end of the season was "not the best way to do this," but at this point, the C's are stuck. They're going to play Shaq three or four times over the Celtics' last seven games, which they hope will adequately prepare him for the postseason.
It'll be interesting to see how he looks in his first game back. Two months of rest can really hinder you, even if you're one of the all-time greats.
4:15 p.m.: Welcome to the TD Garden, where rumors are swirling that the Diesel will try to give it a go against the Detroit Pistons.
Of course, we've heard that before. Shaq and the Celtics have been teasing us with the possibility of a return for weeks now. Until he actually takes the floor and plays, there's good reason to be skeptical.
Doc Rivers addresses the media in an hour. Updates are on the way.
8 a.m.: The Celtics will be without one big man when they take the floor Sunday evening at the TD Garden — Nenad Krstic is out of commission with a bone bruise in his right knee. But they might regain another — after two months on the shelf with an inflamed Achilles, Shaquille O'Neal may finally be ready to make his return.
After a four-game road trip this past week, the C's return home Sunday to take on the Detroit Pistons, and Shaq may be ready to join them. The team has been cautious about putting the 39-year-old big man back on the floor, but now might be the time. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge said earlier this week that Shaq will play either Sunday or Tuesday, when the C's take on the Philadelphia 76ers at home.
The C's could definitely use Shaq's presence in the middle. They're in the post-Kendrick Perkins era, where Krstic has been their only reliable center, and with Krstic out, there's a big gaping hole on the depth chart. Shaq's return could put the C's back in business.
Boston is now 52-23, almost out of the running for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. It's a two-horse race between the Celtics and Heat, who remain tied in the loss column. The Pistons are 26-49, out of the running for the postseason. They've got nothing to play for, but they can still play spoiler.
The Celtics and Pistons tip off at 6 p.m.
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