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Celtics notebook

Still finding themselves short on big men

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / January 25, 2011

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WALTHAM — The Celtics continue to play shorthanded when it comes to big men. Shaquille O’Neal (hip flexor) will miss the game against the Cavaliers tonight at TD Garden and his status for the team’s visit to Portland Thursday has not been determined.

Jermaine O’Neal (knee) remains out and Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery), who participated fully in yesterday’s light practice, is not ready to return. That means Semih Erden likely will make his sixth start of the season at center.

Shaquille O’Neal was injured in the first quarter Friday night against Utah and missed the Celtics’ 85-83 loss at Washington Saturday night, the team’s first defeat in five games with Erden starting.

“It’s his hip, it’s locked up, that’s all it is,’’ coach Doc Rivers said of Shaquille O’Neal. “It’s not a serious injury but he’s also 38 years old and we’re going to be very cautious.’’

Asked what he expected going into the season about how often O’Neal would be available, Rivers said, “I didn’t know, I knew it wouldn’t be every night. I didn’t know how many minutes we could even play him.

“I had expectations and he’s met those, as far as I’m concerned, on the floor. But the injuries and stuff — we knew with Shaq and JO we would have injuries. The history told you that. We just didn’t know it would be this amount right now. But we’ll get through it.’’

The Celtics lost to Cleveland early in the season, and after a decent start to their campaign, the Cavaliers have lost 17 consecutive games.

“It’s been a terrific season so far but we’ve had some bad losses,’’ Rivers said. “And I tell our guys that some of the teams that have beaten us are under .500, and those are tough losses for a team that shouldn’t lose those games. So, more lessons learned, and [I’ve] just got to keep teaching them.

“Cleveland beat us once already this year. I rarely worry about the opponent, I worry about ourselves. And when we play right it gives us an excellent chance to win the game and when we don’t anybody can beat us, and that’s been proven this year.’’

The Celtics appeared to suffer a letdown as they slumped to a 27-point second half against Washington.

“It was an early lead,’’ Rivers said of the Celtics’ promising start. “I always go by halftime leads and third-quarter leads. I saw us walking the ball and we just didn’t execute offensively. We also missed wide open shot after wide open shot. But my problem with the shots is, even though they were wide open, they were all jump shots. They were great shots, you couldn’t get better looks. But . . . at some point, you’ve got to get points in the paint.

“That was all on us. We started out going to the post, driving the ball, and we got away from our formula. We know our formula to win, and when we do it, it gives us a great shot and when we don’t do it we still win sometimes. But it’s a false sense of security and I thought we got lulled into that a little bit the other night.’’

As for the possibility of overlooking the Cavaliers, Rivers said: “If we do, then we’ll lose. I don’t think our team does that. I think we come out and we assume wins and sometimes they don’t happen. You have to go out and earn them.

“The way to get up is look up at the banners and think about home court, that’s what should motivate you. You’re going to lose games on certain nights that you should win. That’s going to happen. But it just can’t happen too many times.’’

Daniels called away Marquis Daniels missed practice because of “a family issue,’’ Rivers said . . . Perkins went through the entire practice, which consisted mostly of skeleton drills. “He wants to play [tonight], he’s already approached me about it,’’ Rivers said. But the coach said Perkins’s availability will be determined by trainer Ed Lacerte and team doctor Brian McKeown. “I’m not going to listen to Perk, I can tell you that,’’ Rivers said . . . The Celtics had 10 players participating in practice. “Our veterans, Ray [Allen], Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce], have been terrific under the situation we’re in,’’ Rivers said. “We had a good practice because of them.’’ . . . The second unit was Erden, Perkins, Glen Davis, Luke Harangody, and Nate Robinson. “[Davis] spent the whole day at the ‘3,’ we threw him out of his position,’’ Rivers said. “He enjoyed it. He thought he could shoot every time, like Paul.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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