“I’m OK,” the 7-foot-1, 325-pound Cavaliers center said Thursday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “I’m used to taking 30-40 shots a game. I’ve just got to get it and, those little chippies I shoot, I’ve just got to make them. It’s just me. I’m just missing.”
With the Cavaliers and Boston Celtics tied at one game apiece in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, O’Neal needs to start doing just that in Game 3 tonight at 7 at TD Garden.
The 18-year veteran, who missed the last 23 games of the regular season with an injury to his right thumb, is just 8-of-22 from the field (.364) in the series, with most of his misses coming from point-blank range. O’Neal, who is 27-of-59 overall from the field (.458) in the playoffs, has been particularly ineffective in the first quarter against the Celtics, going 0-of-3 in Game 1 and 1-of-4 in Game 2. Performing better at that time is important to the Cavaliers, who have tried to establish O’Neal early in both games but have trailed after the first quarter in both (26-20 in Game 1, 26-22 in Game 2).
“We need him to get going,” teammate LeBron James said. “I think he understands that. He wants to play well. We want him to play well. It has to start (in Game 3).”
O’Neal had some great stretches in the first round against Chicago and also played a big role by scoring six points in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s Game 1 win over Boston, but he’s had a lot more postseason stretches where he’s displayed little lift and failed to finish.
With O’Neal having been a key part of four NBA championship teams, the Cavaliers aren’t ready to push the panic button just yet, but they also aren’t hiding the fact the 38-year-old needs to start producing more often.
“He’s going to have to be able to score some points down there (in the low post) to loosen it up for the rest of the guys,” coach Mike Brown said.
James, the two-time league MVP, and Orlando’s Dwight Howard were unanimous selections to the All-NBA first team, which also included the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Miami’s Dwyane Wade.
James earned first-team honors for the third straight season and fourth time overall in his seven-year career.
He’s been a second-team selection on two occasions, failing to earn All-NBA honors only as a rookie.
The second team consisted of Phoenix’s Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, Utah’s Deron Williams, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, while Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Portland’s Brandon Roy, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, the Lakers’ Pau Gasol and Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut made the third team.
Boston’s Rajon Rondo (47 points) was a distant second to Toronto’s Chris Bosh (80) among the rest of the players receiving votes, which included one for Cleveland point guard Mo Williams.
Throwing in the towel
Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was fined $25,000 by the league for “creating an unauthorized distraction”— throwing a towel into the air while Cleveland’s J.J. Hickson was shooting a free throw late in the third quarter of Game 2 — but James saw no problem with the action.
“I think it’s cool,” James said.
“When a GM or an owner like (Dallas’) Mark Cuban and those guys (do something like that), M.J.
(Charlotte’s Michael Jordan), those guys are excited. They put the team together. They should have as much fun as they want. I think it’s cool.”
Cleveland reserve Anderson Varejao, who left Game 2 in the third period with back spasms, went through practice and said he was “still a little sore,” but will play tonight. Varejao, who on Wednesday was named to the All-Defensive second team, also got a few laughs when asked about his penchant for drawing charging fouls.
“I’m not a flopper,” he said. “I’m just doing the Brazilian samba.”
The Cavaliers were 26-15 on the road during the regular season, while the Celtics were just 24-17 at TD Garden.
“We’re a (darn) good road team,” O’Neal said. “We know if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine. We match up with any team in the league pretty well.”
- James needs 21 points to reach 2,000 for his playoff career and 12 assists to reach 500. Among active players, only Bryant, Duncan, O’Neal, San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Denver’s Chauncey Billups have reached that level in both categories. Twenty-five players have done it in NBA history.
- ◾ Boston’s Kevin Garnett, who has been bothered by a sprained midfoot, practiced and is expected to be in the starting lineup for Game 3.
Quote of the day
“Don’t ever interrupt me again, tough guy.” — A smirking O’Neal when a reporter (this one) inadvertently started asking a question before the soft-spoken center had finished answering the previous one.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.