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Celtics notebook

Practice resumes, camp-style

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / April 28, 2011

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WALTHAM — As of yesterday afternoon, the Celtics didn’t know their opponent for the second round of the playoffs (it became Miami when the Heat eliminated the 76ers last night). So practice took on a familiar feel that coach Doc Rivers likened to training camp.

The Celtics returned to practice for the first time since completing a sweep of the Knicks in the first round Sunday. The two-day break was just enough for players to rest and prepare. The opponent didn’t matter much to Rivers.

“I’ve told you all year, the opponent’s been us,’’ Rivers said. “We have a chance to work on our stuff. It’s very similar to training camp. When you’re starting camp, you don’t really have an opponent. You’re really just trying to work on your stuff, and now we have an opportunity to do that plus rest.’’

Rivers was planning to watch last night’s Game 5 between the Heat and Sixers, but he wasn’t rooting for either team. He was hoping the series would stretch to seven games.

As for giving his players two days off, Rivers said, “I told them I didn’t want to see them. I told them that, in a change, the coaches were taking a break, not the players. No, the players could do whatever they want the last two days.’’

There weren’t any homework assignments, but players did little things to stay focused. The weight room was occupied, and others stayed loose taking a couple of shots here and there.

A couple of days off can be good for any team, but Ray Allen said only to a point.

“I don’t think anybody’s tired,’’ Allen said. “But I think it’s always good to have rest.’’

A Shaq sighting? It seems tomorrow is the day Shaquille O’Neal will return to the court for practice — maybe.

O’Neal has been out with a calf injury and missed the entire first round. He hasn’t played since April 3, and he missed additional games this year because of an Achilles’ tendon injury.

Rivers wouldn’t speculate on when O’Neal would be ready for game action, only to say he’s hopeful he will return soon.

In a good rhythm If there is any player enjoying his time on the court these days, it would be Jermaine O’Neal. After being hampered by knee troubles this season, O’Neal is back in the mix, and the break before the next round of the playoffs isn’t going to throw him off of his routine, he said.

“Sometimes rhythm is needed a lot on the offensive end of the court, but on the defensive end, I feel really good,’’ he said. “Offensively, I think my comfort zone with being out there with the guys and taking shots when given the opportunity, I think that’s coming around, too.

“I feel like I can build on where I left off in the New York series.’’

In the first round, O’Neal averaged 4 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 5.5 points in 23 minutes a game. In the time off, O’Neal said, he monitored his wrist, which he tweaked against the Knicks. But he said he hasn’t had any issues.

“It feels good,’’ O’Neal said. “I just protect it. I wear a little brace. I’m superstitious now, so I even wear the brace at home, when I don’t really need it. You just want to be healthy going into the next round and not have any hiccups.’’

When the Celtics take on the Heat, O’Neal expects that last season’s playoff loss to Boston will not be far from the minds of his former teammates.

O’Neal played all of last season and part of 2008-09 with the Heat and was part of that first-round loss to Boston. O’Neal said he wouldn’t be surprised if that result fuels Dwyane Wade.

“He’s super-competitive,’’ O’Neal said. “Just playing with him, I got to see another level of him. His competitive nature is up there with some of the best that I’ve seen.’’

Heat alert The Celtics-Heat schedule was released last night. The Celtics are at Miami Sunday and Tuesday, then return home for games Saturday, May 7, and Monday, May 9 . . . Rajon Rondo’s foul on New York’s Landry Fields in Game 3 was upgraded to Flagrant-1. He now has 1 point, and if he tallies 4, he will receive a one-game suspension.

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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