No big changes planned
MIAMI — With the expected return of Shaquille O’Neal to the Celtics’ lineup, the Heat are respecting what he can bring, but they are not straying from their plans.
O’Neal has played only five minutes since Feb. 1 and practiced Monday for the first time since the beginning of April.
“We don’t know [what to expect],’’ Dwyane Wade said. “He’s a guy that’s won four rings and obviously having him back will be a big boost of energy for the crowd and to the team, but it’s our job just to continue with our game plan and we can’t really worry about who’s coming back and who’s not.’’
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Thursday he was optimistic O’Neal would play tonight in Game 3. Yesterday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was considering defensive options if O’Neal does return. The Heat have 6-foot-11-inch, 265-pound Erick Dampier as an option. He has been left out of the center rotation in the playoffs in favor of Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
“I think we can go a lot of different ways,’’ Spoelstra said. “If we keep it the same, we have bulk. If I change it, I still have 24 hours to figure that out. Both teams’ games will stay the same. He’ll be able to impact and help them at the rim, in the paint, more because it is a physical series, but we’re a physical team as well.’’
The Heat have a clear plan if O’Neal plays, and it’s the same as it has been for the first two games of the series. They want lots of movement and speed.
“He’s a big target under the basket, but we’ve got to get him moving,’’ Chris Bosh said. “We don’t want it to be a stagnant halfcourt game because that’s where he can really affect the game if he checks in. We want to get out on the open court and run and try our best to keep him off the boards and keep him out of the paint.’’
Bracing for Boston The Heat know what they will be walking into at TD Garden.
“I’m assuming it’s going to be one of the most fierce environments that you can think of as far as the opponent is concerned,’’ Bosh said. “We know we’re the visiting team and we know what this game means for them and we know what this game means for us. I think mentally we can pretty much just prepare for the worst conditions and we’ll be fine.’’
The Heat have been careful to say they haven’t accomplished much until they can get a win in Boston. It’s eluded them their last five trips to TD Garden.
“We’ve not had much success there, no success actually, since we’ve been coaching and they’ve put together that team,’’ Spoelstra said. “So we have great respect for what they can do in that building and the type of response they can bring.’’
Spoelstra said the Heat are especially not buying into the talk that the Celtics are too old.
“That’s a very proud, veteran, poised, experienced team that’s been through it all,’’ he said, “and been through this before where everybody is throwing dirt on them and saying whatever it may be that it’s near the end of the line, that there are too many miles on those wheels and we don’t believe any of that.’’
Haslem close Heat forward Udonis Haslem practiced for the fifth straight day, his longest streak since undergoing left foot surgery in November, though he hasn’t been cleared to return to action.
“That’s a tough thing to gauge coming into a season that’s going hyperspeed right now,’’ Spoelstra said. “He’s not coming back into the season in November. We want to make sure that when he is ready to come back that he is capable of contributing at this pace and this speed and this intensity.’’