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Celtics Notebook

Krstic excels in transition game

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / March 7, 2011

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MILWAUKEE — The blending of Nenad Krstic into the Celtics’ offense has been better than expected. After a sparkling 17-point performance in last night’s 89-83 win over the Bucks, he is averaging 12.2 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 56 percent with the Celtics, and has emerged as a post threat.

Krstic came to Boston carrying the reputation of an above-average outside shooter with a questionable game in the paint. But because opposing teams have focused so much on containing the other starters, Krstic has been left open and taken advantage of his scoring opportunities.

Confidence in the former Thunder and Nets center has soared over the past week, as he and Kevin Garnett have developed a chemistry that could be critical to the Celtics’ success down the stretch.

“We’re embracing change, man, trying to help him adjust,’’ Garnett said. “It’s very complex when it comes to some of the schemes, so all it is is hard work, commitment, and some effort. Obviously he’s been in a system.

“I didn’t know he could go to the offensive boards the way he does. I love the way he rebounds. He’s going to help us.’’

Krstic has said several times since being acquired that he feels more included in the Celtics’ offense. In Oklahoma City, he was merely an outside shooter and watched as Russell Westbrook, a shoot-first point guard, slashed to the basket to score or pass to All-Star Kevin Durant.

Krstic has averaged almost three more minutes per game than with the Thunder and 0.8 more shot attempts. But like Shaquille O’Neal, the Celtics have sought to get him involved early, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“In Oklahoma City I didn’t have a role,’’ he said. “I was just a spot-up shooter. They didn’t want me posting up, nothing. It was a little bit frustrating for me. I’m more comfortable playing inside-out. When you are a big guy and you rely just on your shooting, you miss a couple of shots, you tend to lose confidence. You need to have a couple of easy baskets, just to gain your rhythm. Now all of a sudden you can make shots and everything.’’

Krstic practically saved the slow-footed Celtics with 12 first-half points on 6-for-6 shooting. His teammates were 12-of-27 from the field for 31 points.

“He’s been terrific, he really has,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “He finishes so much better than I knew. The guys are very comfortable with him.’’

Waiting to surface Carlos Arroyo is officially a Celtic, but did not join the team last night. He will meet with his new teammates tomorrow in Boston. Rivers said the club was concerned about Rajon Rondo’s heavy minutes — 11th in the league at 37.9 per game — and wanted to give him a breather down the stretch.

Rondo has not had a true backup point guard most of the season. Delonte West has battled injuries and may return from his latest ailment Wednesday against the Clippers. Rivers said he won’t place additional responsibility on 20-year-old rookie Avery Bradley.

Arroyo played in 49 games with the Heat this season, averaging 5.6 points and 2.0 assists.

O’Neal out indefinitely Those expecting a showdown between O’Neal and Blake Griffin will have to wait because O’Neal, who celebrated his 39th birthday yesterday, won’t be on the court. He is not progressing from his strained Achilles’ tendon injury as quickly as hoped and the discomfort returned during his most recent workout.

“We don’t know now, I mean really,’’ Rivers said. “[Trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] said don’t even expect him any time soon.’’

Von Wafer (strained right calf) and Glen Davis (strained left knee) did not make the trip, and Rivers had no update on Wafer’s condition, which caused him to leave TD Garden wearing a walking boot Friday night. The Celtics were down to nine healthy players for last night’s game, including Sasha Pavlovic, who played 12 minutes and sank a 3-pointer in his Celtics debut.

Murphy still confident Troy Murphy is 0 for 9 from the field with 3 points in three games since being signed, but he said he has full confidence in his shooting prowess returning soon . . . Rivers said he would like Chris Johnson to return to the team in some capacity, perhaps next season. Rivers raved over the former NBA Developmental League standout’s improvement since training camp. Still, Johnson was not brought back for a second 10-day contract . . . Rivers spent Saturday night watching his son, Austin, who is headed to Duke, lead Winter Park High School to its second consecutive 6A Florida state title with a 52-44 win.

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