As old as he may be, the Celtics' offense hasn’t been nearly as potent without him on the court — especially against the Heat. Consider this: the Celtics averaged 121.1 points per 100 possessions with Shaq on the floor against the Heat this season, a whopping 26.2 points per 100 possessions better than when he was off the floor.
With Shaq in the fold, the Celtics improved their offensive game across the board. Virtually every Celtics player saw his efficiency skyrocket with Shaq next to them. Rajon Rondo shot 34.5 percent from the floor with Shaq off the court and 50.0 percent with him on the court. And Ray Allen? His field goal percentage soared from 50 percent (really good) to 68.8 percent (really great) with Shaq out there.
The team’s assisted rate (percentage of field goals assisted) jumped from 61.4 percent to 66.7 percent, the team’s rebounding rate climbed from 45.7 percent to 54.2 percent, and overall, the team’s field goal percentage increased from 45.5 percent to 54.1 percent. Whether Shaq is directly responsible for all that, we can’t be totally sure. But those are the facts.
What we don’t know is whether the May version of Shaquille O’Neal will have a similar positive impact. Will he be in shape? How well will his body move? The Celtics don’t know and the Heat clearly don’t know either.
The Celtics were playing much better the first half of the season and while I would love to attribute that all to Shaq, it's just not the case. But even if the Big Limp can boost the offense a smidge, it could result in a win.
While Joel Anthony has had success defending Boston's bigs so far in this series, Shaq has owned him in the regular season. Windhorst wonders whether Erik Spoelstra will use Erick Dampier to combat the Diesel.