Boston Celtics v Phoenix Suns

Shaq out “indefinitely” for Boston

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One of the keys to Boston being in this in June — one of the reasons that Kendrick Perkins could be traded — was that Shaquille O’Neal could do the job in the middle.

The Celtics will not have Shaq for game one against New York and maybe longer, Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge told the media Saturday. Here’s the word from our man A. Sherrod Blakely at CSN New England.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, made the announcement this afternoon with team physician, Dr. Brian McKeon.

“He has been making progress,” Ainge said. “We tried to get him out there to practice today, simulate the game as much as we could. He’s not ready. We don’t know when he’ll be ready.”

McKeon said the trial O’Neal was involved in consisted of him running, a test McKeon acknowledged O’Neal had failed.

“It didn’t work,” McKeon said. “It’s just too sore. We’re going to spend another … get back to tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get him back soon.”

Yikes.

They tried to have him run and shut him down due to calf and Achilles issues. Those are what have kept him off the court for all but five minutes since Feb. 1.

No Shaq makes beating Knicks more difficult — you’d like to be able to pound them inside — but if Boston’s defense is focused and Rajon Rondo gets back in his groove they should still win (the Knicks have a puncher’s chance).

To get that offense back in a groove, Rivers said he is dumbing the offense back down to the basics, as reported at Celtics.com.

“I’m cutting out literally half of our offensive playbook,” Rivers told the media after Friday’s lengthy practice, which lasted about two and a half hours. “I made a choice: I’d rather run a couple things well than a lot of things average or poor.”

Less than a week ago, when the Celtics were in Miami being trounced by the Heat, Rivers was picked up by ABC’s microphones telling his team, to paraphrase, “Keep it simple. Keep the game simple.” When he didn’t see his players return to that level of simplicity, he decided to make the decision for them.

There may be no more entertaining series than Boston and New York, which gets underway Sunday night in Beantown.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: