Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens announced on Sunday that Avery Bradley will probably be out for the rest of the playoffs, which is bad news for the Cs.
Boston ended up taking a three-point lead in the third quarter after a corner three from Jae Crowder, but at that time Avery Bradley suffered a serious hamstring injury that sidelined him for the rest of the game. The Celtics ended up losing Game 1 and now they might have lost one of their best players for the rest of the series.
Bradley is arguably the best defender on the team, a guy that can lock down almost any backcourt player. He was doing a marvelous job on Jeff Teague until he got injured. Bradley was also the second-leading scorer on the team behind Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics are going to miss his offense just as much as his defense.
When the Celtics are struggling on offense, the team usually turns to to Thomas and Bradley to get the offense started. With Bradley likely out for the rest of the series, the team is going to have get help from some other options.
It is not going to be easy to replace Bradley because he is good on both ends of the floor, but the Celtics do have players like Marcus Smart and rookies Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter that should be able to contribute with Bradley out. Smart had a huge first game for Boston on both ends and he even shot well from deep (3-for-6).
Smart has to keep playing at a high level if the Celtics want to win this series because he is going to be playing a lot more if Bradley is out.
Rozier and Hunter might see the floor as well. Rozier can add that defensive tenacity and Hunter can add some shooting. Hunter and Rozier could be vital for the Celtics, but do not be surprised if coach Brad Stevens might stick with a shortened rotation that only plays Thomas, Smart and Evan Turner in the backcourt.
It is hard to ask a lot out of Hunter and Rozier, but both players should be ready to help out the team if called on.
It is hard to imagine that Bradley is going to return for this series or even down the road if the Celtics make it past Atlanta. Boston is going to have to adjust without Bradley in their lineup and they are going to have to find a way to contain someone like Teague without Bradley.
Smart is going to be crucial for the Celtics going forward because he and Crowder are now the primary crunch-time defenders. It is going to be comparatively easy to replace Bradley’s defense compared to replacing his offensive consistency.
Smart, Rozier, Hunter and Turner are going to have to bring their games to another level if the Celtics want to win this series. Crowder will hopefully pick up his offensive game as well for the rest of the series as well. Turner will probably start in place for Bradley, but the team’s best lineup going forward should feature Isaiah Thomas, Smart, Turner, Crowder and Amir Johnson.
This was going to be a tough series for the Celtics to win at full strength, and now their backs are truly against the wall without Bradley, but Boston has the personnel to still knock off the Hawks as long as certain players step up big, particularly on the offensive end. It is Smart’s time to truly shine for the Boston Celtics.