StatsCube: Playing the Shaq Card

The Boston Celtics are once again stumbling into the playoffs, having gone 9-9 since March 9. Before this stretch, the Celtics led the Eastern Conference by three games in the loss column over the Chicago Bulls and by six games in the loss column over the Miami Heat.

Now, they need to win in Miami on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) to avoid falling into third place and likely having to win three series on the road to earn banner No. 18. (The Celtics and Lakers are currently tied at 55-24, with L.A. holding the tie-breaker.)

Some may blame the Kendrick Perkins trade for the Celtics’ struggles over the last month, but their problems have been more with their offense (scoring just 101.6 points per 100 possessions over the last 18 games) than with their defense (allowing just 97.7). And while the Celtics look like less of a title contender without Perkins, they’ve still had one trump card in their pocket since the trade, and that is how dominant they were with Shaquille O’Neal in their lineup.

Shaq has played 30 minutes or more just three times this season, but the Celtics are 28-9 with him in uniform, and that includes games without Rajon Rondo and/or Kevin Garnett.

O’Neal has played with the other four Celtics starters in just 18 games. But they were 15-3 in those games and 9-1 against playoff teams. With that lineup intact, they beat the Heat twice, and they beat the Knicks, Bulls, Magic and Lakers.

Of lineups that have logged at least 200 minutes together, the Celtics’ lineup of Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Garnett and O’Neal has been the second-most dominant, only trailing another lineup that has been affected by injury…

Top 10 five-man units, minimum of 200 minutes played (68 lineups total)

Team Lineup GP Min. Pace Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
DAL Kidd, Stevenson, Butler, Nowitzki, Chandler 20 257 93.3 119.0 94.4 +24.6
BOS Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, O’Neal 18 266 95.3 115.1 96.1 +19.1
BOS Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Davis 54 504 93.0 111.4 94.4 +17.0
IND Collison, Dunleavy, Granger, McRoberts, Hibbert 37 441 99.8 110.7 97.2 +13.5
LAL Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom, Gasol 72 905 94.2 113.6 100.1 +13.5
SAS Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Duncan, McDyess 40 226 95.2 115.0 101.6 +13.4
POR Miller, Matthews, Batum, Wallace, Aldridge 22 300 88.0 121.2 108.1 +13.1
MIA Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh, Dampier 28 269 94.1 104.5 92.1 +12.4
LAL Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom, Gasol 44 208 91.3 105.6 93.8 +11.8
SAS Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Duncan, Blair 63 677 97.1 109.1 97.5 +11.6

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

You’ll note that if you replace Shaq with Glen Davis, you have a lineup that’s played a lot more minutes together and has been nearly as good — slightly better defensively and slightly worse offensively.

And on the offensive end of the floor, where the Celtics have been struggling most over the last month, is where Shaq can help the Celtics most. The lineup of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett and O’Neal has shot a ridiculous 58 percent from the field (easily the highest among five-man units that have played 200 minutes together). And with O’Neal on the floor, Allen (38-for-69) and Pierce (30-for-59) have combined to shoot an incredible 53 percent from 3-point range.

As long as the Celtics have their four All-Stars on the floor, they’re pretty good. But with both O’Neal and Davis healthy, Doc Rivers has the option of going to either an offensive or defensive lineup. Though it’s certainly not all his fault, the Celtics have had lesser results with Jermaine O’Neal thus far…

Efficiency on floor with Rondo, Allen, Pierce & Garnett

Player GP Min. Pace Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
Shaquille O’Neal 18 266 95.3 115.1 96.1 +19.1
Glen Davis 54 504 93.0 111.4 94.4 +17.0
Kendrick Perkins 12 170 92.4 110.4 97.8 +12.6
Nenad Krstic 18 285 94.0 106.9 96.0 +10.9
Semih Erden 12 79 95.1 112.8 102.1 +10.7
Jeff Green 13 46 89.6 111.8 102.3 +9.5
Jermaine O’Neal 8 115 91.1 101.6 95.4 +6.2

StatsCube can’t quantify it (perhaps in the next version), but having Shaq in their lineup can also help get the Celtics’ swagger back. They lost some of that swagger when Perkins was traded, but they were looking pretty confident earlier in the season, when he was rehabbing and they had replaced him with a four-time champion, a 15-time All-Star, and the fifth leading scorer in NBA history.

But of course, less than six minutes after Shaq returned to action from a 27-game absence last Sunday, he was heading back to the locker room with a strained calf. It doesn’t look like he’ll play Sunday in Miami and his status is unknown for the Celtics’ final two regular season games (Monday at Washington and Wednesday vs. New York).

The Celtics are still a great team without Shaq. And finally having Jermaine O’Neal certainly helps. But the numbers speak for themselves, and with Shaq, the Celtics are on another level. He’s their trump card, and if they can get him (and keep him) on the floor in the postseason, they’re back to being the favorites in the Eastern Conference.


John Schuhmann is a staff writer for Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.


  1. Yeah I Said It. . And I Will Say It Again. says:

    Boston will pull through when it counts. . . . . . did you guys forget about last year???? when your young teams were on vacation my team (Boston) was making money in the finals LMAO, dont worry about them they know how to play in the playoffs. . they are not your Dallas team who fall off during the playoffs, they know how to pick it up to the playoff play. . best belive that. . . and we will not blame any loss on loseing perkins. . . he was hurt allot with us and we still manage to get the job done. . . .Haters will hate so let them hate. . .hate on Boston haters. . we still got the most championships won in the NBA. . .YES MORE THAN THE FAKE SHOW!! LMAO

    • KarlJohn says:

      1million thumbs up @ Yeah I Said it. Finally, a guy who knows how the game goes. People just dont learn that regular season dont matter. Let me say it again. 1st of all, Perk is not a big change to Boston, do u even see how Perk plays in OKC? Did u see how SOneal play before he gets injured in his last game? He played for 5 minutes and made all his 3 shots. If you guys still remember, Perkins was still injured when the Boston made their 14 win run and Shaq was NOT injured. Take your time to think about that guys. Another thing, Cleveland had 61-19 in their regular season, but did they win the eastener conference Championship? Boston was only rank 3 that time but they still beat the Cleveland. Boston will show that regular seasons dont matter and that playoff is VERY different with a regular season. Please read this carefully guys before you start saying that Boston is out. Another thing, the lost of Boston to the Wiz is nothing. The 4 starters were not even playing. Lol. Doc is doing the right thing.^^.

  2. The Genius says:

    First of all!!! Get off Bostons d$*k 2 u h8rs!! Last year they just scraped in2 playoffs outa form & were written off & wat happened–>East Conf Champs. Second of all!! Don’t discount LAL from winning again!! They got Kobe, Pau, Ron & Bynum!! Oh they also got some coach named Phil who knows a thing or 2 come playoff time lol!! Mia hav an expereienced coach & Lebum couldnt shoot a clutch shot 2 save his life!! Yeah yeah hes the greatest all round playa but he can’t shoot when it matters, so just give the ball 2 Wade. As for Bosh, hes the most overpaid playa in the game after Joe Johnson. Hes an Avatar with no post moves, just a left handed jump shooter that nails it cause lets face it double teaming the big 3 equals 6 so hes always open 2 score his lame 18 pts a game. Im a Bulls fan & as much as I’d like us 2 win it, I kno its highly unlikely. My tip is Boston v LA in the finals again & please dont compare LBJ’s Cle 2 us. They were miles behind in terms of defensive presence & 1 thing Rose has over Lebron is heart so dont think its automatic that the Bulls get eliminated if they were 2 play Mia in the East Conf Finals 2 the h8r above. Didnt we sweep them during the regular season with our lone supastar!! ROSE 4 MVP!!

    • Come on now... says:

      does eveyone forget how good Rondo and celtics are in the playoffs? they are one of the only teams capable of busting up a team on the road. Stop hating on the Big Shamrock. Lakers will make the Finals for sure. Lakers will play whoever wins Round 2 Heat v Celtics.

  3. Grady Watts says:

    The Lakers,The Celtic’s,and The Spurs have fallen prey to the biggest nemesis in the upcoming playoffs,Father Time.No one conquers this opponent.The great Michael Jordan,Larry bird,Magic Johnson and many,many other have been dethroned.There will be a different champion this year other than the big 3,LA,Boston,and San Antonio.Put your money on the Heat.

  4. mc says:

    he didnt have shaq.. but he had pau gasol.. it wasent kobe that tipped in the last second buzzer against okc to completely shift the series.. also it wasent kobe with that and 1 against boston game 7 to put the game away. if perkins played game 7.. celtics win. what was it like 24 offensive rebounds?

  5. youdumb says:

    did kobe have shaq the last two years? LOL

  6. Ice Pogi says:

    No Disrespect with Rose…. Cause He is the Leagues MVP…. He is a great Player…. But he needs help….. LBJ done that too…. 2 time MVP with Leagues Best Team Record… What happen??? Where he is now….. He’s been there already and he knew… Like the playoffs in the past… Kobe had Shaq…MJ with Pippen, Magic with Kareem ,Bird with Parish.. and so on… Rose is a very talented player… one of the BEST… but i guess not enough…. Maybe next season if they can get D12.. Playoffs is way different from the regular. season………

  7. Ice Pogi says:

    What Lakers???What if Maimi and the Lakers met in the finals??? uhm It’s really a bumpy ride in the WEST… Wanna join the band wagon???? It’s nice and comfy in here…..OKC Portland SA Dallas…whew what a bumpy ride!!!! In the East sure the Bulls are on the top spot… but believe me it won’t be the same in playoffs…..Trading Perks hurt the Boston… Maybe it’s true ,but the truth is the Lakers will get hurt with that trade too…Have you forgot that Perks is in the West with OKC???Who win the game lately??? L.A. or OKC??? If that trade didn’t happened maybe the lakers would have a chance… But now…. I don’t think so… Some say it’s LA vs Bulls in the finals… It wont happen…maybe in your dreams but in reality never… That Era is gone…D.Rose is no MJ so does Kobe not even close…. What kobe has 5 rings and MJ has 6… one more ring then he’s MJ??? kobe got 5 rings a now he’s the best basketball player in the planet??? If rings gonna be your basis then Horry is better than MJ….Horry got 7… How is it for Bill Russell 11 rings ??? Brace for the Playoffs… Soon you’ll gonna find out who’s going to get Home that Ring…. Miami Heat Fan here since the time of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway… Goodluck in the Playoffs……….

    • al respect the game says:

      u not making much sense bro. u just sound like a hater all around. the rings argument is lame. u just wanted someone to respond. and i guess u win in that respect cause iam replying to ur lame comment.

  8. Lakers says:

    Trading Perkins hurt Boston because they’re relying on Shaq! I would like to see every team healthy so we can truly see some great playoffs!

  9. Lakers says:

    Even though the Lakers are in another slump, I still think they’re the team to beat in the West. The same with Boston in the East. They both have to be dethroned. It could very well happen. I don’t know. What bothers me is the same haters that come in and predict as though they are psychic, that both teams won’t make it! It’s always the same ones that have something to say about the Lakers and Boston. Do you ever talk about your own team, instead of attempting to disrespect and discredit other elite teams?

    • Gary says:

      Same thing goes for LA fans on here saying three peat like it’s written I’m stone. It’s all opinion but given LA’s performance as of late I’d say it’s getting to the fans. Your comment proves it.

  10. Any bodys ball says:

    stop crying ahahhahahaha playoff time lets get it on!!!!!

  11. Tenki says:

    Although I was impressed with Miami’s win over Boston, I still have to say that Boston IS still the team to beat in the East. Granted, Chicago is at the top of the pecking order right now, Miami is picking up the pace, and Orlando has D12 manning the paint, but Boston is the clear favorite to win in the East. They are as good as everybody else in the league when they play at their highest level, and they are sure to fire at all cylinders come playoff time.

    It’s very unlikely for NY pull off an upset because defense is an unknown term for them, so they’ll meet Miami in the second round. However, if Miami ends up at number 2 after the regular season, they would give Boston a tough time in South Beach, reflecting on the Heat’s win over them. Maybe Celtic fans would laugh and call Miami “lucky”, but the Heat’s defensive effort says otherwise. One thing for sure though: the better defensive team will end up the winner in the second round in the East.

  12. sharpeye says:

    Don’t judge Boston right now remember how they beat the Cleaveland, orlando in the playoffs cleaveland is the fan favorite and also orlando but what team beat them BOSTON right, so don’t go easy on boston. they are more experience when it comes to playoffs run so we will see how other teams can manage celtics in the playoffs. go celtics !!

  13. rondo jnr says:

    dnt worry y’all with God on our side we can do all things

  14. think says:

    health is definitely a concern for every team. but as professionals do (this is their job if ever we need to be reminded), they have to win with what they have. Boston has been playing all year without a good center (O’neals, Perk), but theyve fought hard through the season. Theyve beaten the teams they have to beat, but again a 7 game series is entirely different. Although every team want to have their full line-up playing during the playoffs, they still have to win if they don’t.

    No one wins by whining or using a “card”, or saying “we don’t have a full roster”. The championship still goes to the team who won every series. Hopefully Shaq (or Jermaine) would play, but if Boston will have to play the whole thing without him (as they did without KG 2 years ago… and last year’s game 7 w/o Perk), then thats how the dice rolls. No excuses. Just win.

  15. famozwest says:

    Shaq can still provide 10 pts and 10 rebounds which would jump start boston every game….

    they usually went to the post when shaq was playing and he did better than k perk and baby.

    shaq is a hall of famer who knows the game and can defend any center 1on1.

    k perk is just a defender and baby davis is too short 2 dominate although he has moments

  16. Kim Mathenge says:

    ha ha ha

  17. Moe says:

    We should have kept Turkish delight (Semi “Semi Automatic” Erden) than that Troy “Scalibrine” Murphy

  18. L Razi says:

    How does LA own the tiebreaker? I thought first they look at better records.. which they both have the same. They are 1-1 against each other this year. They both are division leaders.. but Boston has a better record inside their own division which I thought would give them the tiebreaker… can someone explain?

    • Read this!!! says:

      apparently the tiebreaker rules change in the Finals, and the team that has a better record against its respective opposing conference gets the tiebreaker. It’s a weird rule, especially considering that for the Finals there are only three tiebreakers, and the third one is a random draw.

  19. Louis says:

    Nice usage of the words bc

  20. Will says:

    This is an example of where reading stats confuses reality. The Celtics are in a slump due to Ray Allen’s terrible form of late, combined with a drop-off in scoring from Paul Pierce and an at times erratic Rajon Rondo. Of course Shaq is handy to the Celtics’ needs, especially since Perkins left but if the backcourt are not producing the points, Shaq’s PPG and RPG ultimately do little for the Celtics.

    • LAfan says:

      non-sense, If Boston dont have Shaq they are useless..Its over for them,they wont face my Lakers in the finals, maybe Miami will just sweep Boston or maybe the Knicks will give there early exits!

  21. Gary says:

    If Celtics get to play the Shaq card, we Miami fans would like to play the Haslem card, and considering he only played about ten games you know that Miami would be on top right now with him.

    • Read this!!! says:

      I thought the Heat were 5-5 or something like that with Haslem. I don’t remember, but they weren’t as dominant when he was playing as Shaq was with the Celtics. This isn’t about just an injured player. This is about a player who has made his team extremely better when he is on the floor. Every single team has had an injured player, but the point here is that Shaq is a game-changer for the Celtics.

      • sandile says:

        Lets see how he makes them better not having to play in a 7 game series, cause you and i know. He won’t make it in these playoffs. I just hope Celtic fans do not use the Shaq or Perkins card if thngs don’t go their way.

      • Gary says:

        Haslem is a starter for Miami and their main inside presence. He has the same impact, if not greater, as Shaq or Perkins did for Boston. And actually Shaq is gar from a game changer nowadays. But like I said if that’s the card Celtic fans wanna play, then Miami fans get to say the same for their inside man.

    • think says:

      MIAMI will use the Haslem Card?!?!? the team was built just this year… and its all about getting wade, lebron and bosh playing together to win their rings… we’ve never heard they said Haslem will make this team complete. And now Haslem not playing is the excuse you have??? c’mon man… stand up for your team…

      • Gary says:

        First off I said “IF”, meaning that IF people want to blame Bostons problems on Shaq, Miami fans could do the same IF they wanted by using Haslem. 2nd, no one said Our big 3 was going to win by themselves. Why do you think they helped put the team together? Because they knew who they need to help in certain areas. And for the record every sports announcer, analyst, or credible media has said that this team is not complete without Haslem. Get your facts straight.

      • al respect the game says:

        oh goodness gracious an up gary. u guys crowned urself at the start of the season, have u forgotten. did they say : oh if haslem is healthy, they the big three will win it?” common bro, who said it depends onhaslen. u have 3 or the top 15 players on one team and u want to use haslem as what the championship hinges on? worse yet, ur comparing it to celts needing shaq? are u SERIOUS? or just delusionallll? common, if miami wins they win, if they lose they lose. take it like a man

      • Gary says:

        @ Respect, don’t try to put words into my statement that aren’t there. I said the team would be complete. Nothing about Haslem being the key for the championship, just that during regualar season he COULD have been a key factor in some of the close losses. Anyway the Heat proved that they don’t need Haslem but having him is a big help, much like Shaq is to Boston, or Bynum is to LA. And it’s not and excuses it’s a fact.

  22. bs says:

    get well shaq! crush mebron!!!

    • RIOT says:


      • think says:

        how far can they go then in the playoffs? your call… if you say they cant win the championship, then theyd just be 2nd from all the teams in the NBA… if youre using the word “DONE”, i guess they wouldnt even be in the playoffs right?!?!?

    • prix says:

      It dont matter, with Shaq or not…Boston is a failure…wont make it to the 2nd round!

      • Rafael says:

        listen homie shaq is the best he is old now but the best he is.. im a heat fan but you have to love what shaq has done over hes young year

      • think says:

        if they did i hope youd stay up on posting and explaining why theyre able to do that. its easy to call if no one knows you.

      • prix says:

        @Think…you need explaination…if you happen to watch Boston-Miami this afternoon that explain everything..W/o a big man in the middle, Its like Boston dont exist, MIAMI just did whatever they want and a blow out to seal the deal… after the blow out of the Bulls and Miami, this Boston team is a disgrace, they dont even work hard for their fans or for their reputation,It just tell us how bad as a team this Boston turn to be,..NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!

      • colooneo says:

        I bet bostons got more championships than your team prix.

      • Pete says:

        In case you didn’t notice, boston have played horribly lately.

        You can’t say Miami hamered boston because of no inside presence – Miami themselves have no inside presence. Boston played horribly have have been mentally focussed over the last week or two of the season.

        Miami won a single game out of four and suddenly the Fanboys are all over their ‘superiority’. If you win one game out of four in the playoffs, you’re one game away from elimination.

        We’ll see what happens when the playoffs start – until then we’ll know nothing. Remember that the big 3 have been rested for much of the end of the season – you can see they are holding back. Come playoffs you have 1-2 games rest between matchups and absolutely no back-to-backs, and you play the same team ever second game for two weeks.

        Doc is oen of the best coaches in the league when it comes to adjusting to other teams’ gameplans, and boston’s starting 5 (if shaq plays) combined probably makes the most clutch lineup in the NBA (up there with LA).

        We’ll see in a couple of weeks.

      • Tek says:

        @ Prix, It’s right before the playoffs, it’s getting really annoying all you Heat fans basing everything off of ONE game. get real….it’s like giving a little kid a piece of the pie and all of the sudden he thinks he can have the whole thing…I’m sorry Miami Fans..your team has to EARN the whole pie! Never thought i would see the day i would be defending the Celtics, but these miami Bandwagon fans are rediculous.

    • jejemon121212 says:

      so ur sying if they dont get shaq for playoffs then they cant beat heat?