The Celtics breathed a sigh of relief Sunday night when it was learned that Shaquille O'Neal had strained his right calf. He did not reinjure the right Achilles' tendon that had cost him the previous 27 games.
O'Neal pulled up as he ran down the court during the second quarter against the Pistons. He had given the Celtics six points (3-for-3 shooting) in 5:29.
"The update is it's not the same injury," said Doc Rivers. "It had nothing to do with the Achilles'. It's not a bad strain, but it's a strain. It's similar to the one Von (Wafer) had, but not even close to the severity."
O'Neal missed four games in December with a right calf strain, but this looked much worse. In the transition to offense, O'Neal turned back as if he thought he'd stepped on something. Then he pulled up in obvious pain. He limped off the court and into the hallway to the Celtic dressing room. There he was examined by the team physician.
Shaq walked out of the arena without assistance while the game was still going on. The question is now how long he will be out this time.
"I don't think very long, honestly," said Rivers. "That's what (team physician Dr. Brian) McKeon thought, that it's very minor. (It was) scary more than anything. I'm sure with the calf he probably thought it was the Achilles' right away."
The Celtics were clearly down about the injury.
"It's tough," said Paul Pierce. "He's been out so long. He tried to do it without any chance to have any practices. I just hope he's all right.
"Shaq's missed games before. He's been injured before. He knows how to get through it mentally."
CELTICS 101, PISTONS 90: The Celtics shot 64.1 percent from the floor overall and 63.6 percent on treys (7-11), running out to an 18-point lead and resisting the urge to let the Pistons back into it. Ahead by just one point at halftime, the Celtics went inside and put 33 points on the board in the third quarter. Kevin Garnett had 13 of his game-high 23 points in the frame. The Celtics scored just 19 in the last period, but they were able to keep the troubled Pistons, who benched Rodney Stuckey for the game, at bay.
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