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Celtics notebook

O’Neal (hip) to skip quick trip

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / January 22, 2011

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Feeling soreness in his hip early in the Celtics’ 110-86 win over the Utah Jazz last night, Shaquille O’Neal warned coach Doc Rivers that he might have to leave the game. O’Neal played six minutes in the first quarter, didn’t return, and will not travel with the team to Washington for tonight’s game against the Wizards. The Celtics play again at home Tuesday against Cleveland.

“It’s his hip,’’ Rivers said. “Something locked up. So we’ll just have to see how long that will be.’’

O’Neal, who has missed nine games due to injury this season, skipped practice Sunday after slipping on ice outside the Celtics’ practice facility. He also took a spill into the crowd in the first quarter last night, landing on a few front-row fans after diving for a loose ball. But Rivers said neither incident had anything to do with his current hip issues.

“Three minutes in the game he actually walked over to me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t know how long I can go. I’m feeling pretty bad.’ ’’ Rivers said. “I said, ‘Do you want me to take you out?’ He said, ‘No, let me go and see how long I can go.’ ’’

With 5:41 left in the first, Rivers subbed Glen Davis in for O’Neal.

Semih Erden played 30 minutes in O’Neal’s absence, scoring 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds. After falling out of the rotation briefly, Erden’s gotten more minutes lately.

“He played great,’’ Rivers said. “He was physical, he played hard. When Semih just plays hard and does his job, he helps us. Sometimes sitting down a little bit reminds you that you want to play, and he’s doing that. We’re going to need him probably in the next couple games.’’

All business The Celtics finished their six-game homestand 5-1, beating two teams with winning records (Orlando, Utah) while making light work of teams they were supposed to beat easily (Sacramento, Charlotte, Detroit).

Last January, the Celtics went 6-8, the first losing month in the Big Three era. They’ve won nine games already this month, and they have the best home record in the Eastern Conference (21-3).

“We all got on that injury bug, but I think one of the things we wanted to do coming into this year is take care of home,’’ said Kevin Garnett. “That was one of our goals that we set as a top priority . . . now we’ve just got to continue that, make it something that’s consistent.’’

Good-looking team The Celtics are far and away the league’s most efficient offense, shooting 50.5 percent as a team. Their 3,212 shot attempts are among the fewest in the league, but their shot selection is the best.

Of their 1,621 field goals, 1,040 have been assisted.

“It all starts with the ball movement and the trust,’’ Rivers said. “Our guys really have done a better job this year. Each year they’ve gotten better in getting the ball to [Rajon] Rondo early off of rebounds and running their lanes. We execute on our offense but we also try to strike in transition more this year, and I think that’s been a theme.’’

Shoulders slumped Since Rondo’s return from injury, Nate Robinson’s adjustment back to the bench has been difficult. Entering last night’s game, Robinson was shooting 35 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from 3-point range in January. He was 3 for 6 overall last night and hit 2 of 4 from long distance. Rivers said some of Robinson’s shots have been poor decisions, but he isn’t concerned about Robinson staying in a funk for long. “We want him to make shots,’’ Rivers said. “He’s got open shots that at times he’s not making and I’m fine with that. But he does take shots you don’t like. Mostly with Nate I pretty much leave him alone. I’ll tell him after a game, but I don’t think you correct a shooter during the game. That’s what teammates are for.’’ . . . After spraining his left ankle Wednesday against Detroit and sitting out practice Thursday, Marquis Daniels played 26 minutes last night even though the ankle was still swollen. He has yet to miss a game this season, and Rivers didn’t anticipate the injury inhibiting him . . . The Jazz canceled morning shootaround because of the snowstorm.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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