Bradley was averaging nearly seven points per game and two rebounds per game this postseason. The second-year shooting guard provided youth, energy and defense off the Boston bench.
Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus will need to play extended minutes for the Celtics in Game 7 Friday night with Bradley out of the lineup.
Bradley’s injury does not pose a huge threat to Boston’s offensive production, but it does impact the game otherwise.
Let’s take a look at how Bradley’s loss impacts the Boston lineup and how Boston needs to adjust in Game 7.
What Did Bradley Bring to the Lineup?
Bradley was a defense-first shooting guard with developing offensive skills.
Boston’s ball-hawking defense partially relied on their role player’s ability to tirelessly chase the ball. Bradley was a major part of that facet of Boston’s winning formula.
The Celtics were playing Bradley nearly 25 minutes per game in the playoffs. He gave Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen breathers and played with stifling energy on both ends of the floor.
Perhaps most importantly, Bradley brought youth to a grizzled Celtics team. The Sixers have tried to use their youth to outrun the Boston players, but Bradley’s youth allowed the Celtics to counteract that, at least a little bit.
The Celtics still have Rondo facilitating their offense and Kevin Garnett stretching the floor. Boston also has Allen and Paul Pierce ready to make a big shot at anytime.
Their offense is not the concern.
Bradley’s loss will force offensive-minded players like Dooling to command more minutes. Any loss in defensive intensity could neutralize Boston’s one clear-cut advantage over Philadelphia in Game 7.
Which brings us to Bradley’s replacements.
Who Will Replace Bradley?
The Celtics will split Bradley’s minutes four ways.
Veterans, like Dooling, Pietrus and Marquis Daniels, will log major minutes for sure. E’Twaun Moore will also receive more minutes off the Celtic bench.
Dooling provides veteran savvy and a perimeter threat but does not make up for Bradley’s defensive mindset. Pietrus is a solid defender and quality perimeter threat but matches up better at small forward. Daniels is extremely limited offensively but plays a gritty brand of ball. Moore has untapped potential but is nothing more than a spot-up shooter at this point.
This is exactly why the Celtics must take a committee approach.
No Boston replacement will replace Bradley’s stifling perimeter defense without a setback in another area. The Celtics will monitor their current lineup and Philadelphia’s before determining who to throw onto the floor next.
Bradley’s production does not jump out at you. His line in the box score will not make you say, “Wow, this is a devastating blow.”
But this is a big loss for Boston. The Celtics do not have a glut of quality bench players, and Bradley is one of their best.
Bradley’s energy and swarming, quick hands on defense will be tough to replace. This injury could prove to be the difference in tonight’s Game 7 contest.
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