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Can Shaquille O'Neal help the Celtics reverse their fortunes?ESPN research wizards Peter Newmann and Dean Oliver crunched the numbers and, based on the limited regular-season sampling (Shaquille O'Neal played a total of 39 minutes in two appearances vs. the Heat), suggest that the Big Shamrock still has potential to help Boston turn around this series if able to play in Game 3. Here's some of their arguments:
Celtics improved offensive efficiency
With Shaq on the court in the regular season against the Heat, the Celtics averaged 121.1 points per 100 possessions, a stunning 26.2 points per 100 possessions improvement from when Shaq was off the court.
Boston shot a tremendous 54.1 percent from the field against Miami this season with Shaq on the court. That fell to 45.5 percent with Shaq off the court.
Some of the Celtics that saw the biggest differences were Rajon Rondo, who shot 34.5 percent from the field with Shaq off the court and 50 percent with Shaq on the court, and Ray Allen, who shot 50 percent with Shaq off the court and 68.8 percent with Shaq on the court.
The five current Boston players that played with Shaq against Miami all felt huge impacts. With Shaq on the court, each saw a meaningful elevation in the team's offensive rating (points per 100 possessions).
Team Offensive Rating With Shaq on Court vs. Heat
- Glen Davis +54.1
- Ray Allen +24.5
- Rajon Rondo +24.4
- Paul Pierce +16.9
- Kevin Garnett +13.3
Boston's passing is one element of this improvement, as its percentage of assists on made field goals increased from 61.4 percent to 66.7 percent when Shaq was on the court.
Perhaps most notable is Boston's rebounding, especially on the offensive end of the floor. The Celtics rebound percentage was 54.2 percent with Shaq on the court, compared to just 45.7 percent with Shaq off the court.
Boston's offensive rebound percentage increased from 17 percent to 33.3 percent with Shaq on the court. The Celtics defensive rebound percentage increased slightly (from 70.2 percent to 75.9 percent) as well.
And now a look at the other side of the ball:
Limiting Miami defensively
Miami felt Shaq's impact as well. The Heat had a net offensive rating of +8 when Shaq was off the court. However, the Heat had a net rating of -28.3 when Shaq was on the court.
Miami's shots were about a foot and a half closer when Shaq was out of the game. The average distance of a Heat attempt with Shaq on the court was 15.1 feet. With Shaq off the court, the average distance of an attempt was 13.4 feet (1.7 feet closer).
Effectively, Shaq helped neutralize Joel Anthony. In the 15 minutes that Shaq and Anthony played head-to-head in the regular season, Anthony's plus/minus took a major hit (-17). That means the that the Celtics outscored the Heat by more than a point per minute with Shaq and Anthony on the court at the same time.
Considering that Anthony currently has the best plus/minus in the 2011 postseason at +91, including +20 in the conference semifinals against the Celtics, Shaq's ability to play becomes that much more significant.