<
>

Practice: C's are all in

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics convened Friday for a final practice tuneup before Saturday's Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat. Here are some highlights before the team hit the floor at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint, including your daily health update on Shaquille O'Neal:

ShaqWatch: Practice Tune-up: Celtics coach Doc Rivers indicated he planned to put his team through a short, but spirited practice that would include 5-on-5 activity. He said he thought his team needed live action, but particularly O'Neal as the coach remains optimistic about a potential Shaq return in Game 3.

"We’re going to have a normal practice, not that long, but we’re going to go live and go pretty hard," said Rivers. "And not very long. It's more just for our team, I think we need it. And secondly, I think Shaq needs it, so it will be great for him."

Pressed on how much O'Neal might do during the session, Rivers said: "I think everything. Once practice starts, if he’s tentative on something, we’ll stop him. I don’t think we helped him with all the stuff we did [Monday], but I thought he needed to do it."

O'Neal, limited to 5½ minutes of game action since Feb. 1 due to right Achilles and calf issues, participated in his first full practice session Monday, but lingering soreness prevented him from being ready to return for Game 2 the next day. The Celtics will have to play it careful with Shaq in order to ensure he can be on the floor Saturday night.

"I can’t guarantee anything because of [Friday's] practice and the [potential soreness the] next day, but I am very confident he’ll play [Saturday]," said Rivers.

O'Neal emerged from the trainer's room and engaged in stretching activities as the media departed at the start of Boston's practice on Friday.

Betting Against Pocket Aces: Celtics forward Kevin Garnett offered plenty of entertaining soundbites on the two-game deficit that Boston finds itself facing. Maybe the most noteworthy came at the end of his confab with the media after he had been asked about trying to stop Miami's 1-2 punch of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

"Figure it out," said Garnett. "I told you, this is all in. This is it. I've got two pocket kings and I'm all in. Let's do it."

Garnett is either hoping to catch a king on the flop, or doesn't believe James and Wade constitute pocket rockets. Either way, asked as a follow-up how it feels to be in this situation, Garnett summed it up succinctly: "Sucks," and with that hit the floor to warm-up for practice.

More Achilles chatter: Celtics captain Paul Pierce said he's feeling good after a few days of treatment for the left Achilles strain that temporarily forced him out of Tuesday's Game 2 loss.

"It's feeling pretty good," said Pierce. "Last couple days of treatment, it's feeling pretty good. Just a lot of ice, massaging it. [Stimulation] treatment, electronic shock, little stuff. It was just a minor strain, but it's doing good."

Pierce appeared in an upbeat mood and, pressed on whether he can make a difference in the fourth quarter, this after being ejected from Game 1 and playing through injury in Game 2, Pierce smiled and played along by dropping a third-person reference.

"Paul Pierce being in the game in the fourth quarter is always going to help the Celtics," said Pierce. "Healthy."