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With the Miami Heat coming to town in the midst of a 22 game winning streak, the Celtics already have the odds stacked against them tonight. And you would think, if Kevin Garnett does indeed miss tonight's game (he's currently a game time decision), those odds would slide to pretty close to zero. After all, KG's importance to the team goes far deeper than his 15 points and 8 rebounds per game. He is the Celtics defensive backbone, and is responsible for not only guarding Chris Bosh, but protecting the rim against Lebron James and Dwyane Wade as well. Figuring this was the case, I decided to take a look at the Celtics/Heat match-ups since 2010-11 (when Lebron took his talents to South Beach) and see what the Celtics looked like, with, and without Garnett on the floor - expecting the numbers to be quite ugly. But they really weren't.

Since 2010 the Celtics and Heat have played 22 times, but one of those games, a match-up at the Garden on 4/24/12 is being thrown out, considering both teams were in full fledged rest mode (only Paul Pierce from either team's 'Big 3' played in that game). That leaves 21 games. Garnett averaged 16.7 points and 9.4 rebounds vs. Miami, and here's what the Celtics looked like with/without Garnett on the floor in those games.

With: -16 in 761 minutes (-1.01 per 48 minutes)
Without: -39 in 272 minutes (-6.88 per 48 minutes)

What these numbers show, is that KG has been worth about a 5.87 point swing in these games (I normalized the numbers per 48 minutes because KG has played far more minutes than he has sat, making a rate stat a much better gauge). A big number to be sure, but far less than Garnett has been worth to the Celtics against the rest of the NBA.

To show that, I took a look at Garnett's overall +/- numbers vs. the entire NBA since that 2010-11 season. Here'e what they looked like:

With: +1,079 in 7,041 minutes (+7.36 per 48 minutes)
Without: -482 in 4,717 minutes (-4.90 per 48 minutes)

Whoa. As you can see, Garnett is responsible for a 12.26 point swing per 48 minutes. What does this mean? Well, for one, it shows that for whatever reason Garnett's impact is not quite as great against Miami. Maybe it's because the Heat's starting line-up is so good, or maybe it's that Bosh has actually done a better job against him than people realize. But whatever it is, the Celtics do not fall apart as drastically when he leaves the court as they normally do.

Now this isn't to say the Celtics are better off without KG, not by a long shot. Just that over the last 3 years, KG's impact hasn't been quite as drastic against the Heat as it would be against the rest of the league. Obviously Boston is still losing (by these numbers) nearly 6 points per game, a significant number for sure. So why do I think they may still have a puncher's chance? Well - Avery Bradley.

Yesterday I broke down Bradley's impact vs. Wade, and the numbers are staggering. Wade's shooting percentage has dropped from 51% down to just 36.2% in the three head to head meetings with Bradley, and his PPS (points per shot attempt), has dipped from 1.32 against the rest of the league - way down to 0.90 with Bradley on him.

Because of a combination of injuries (Bradley missed all 7 games of last season's ECF match-up, as well as this year's opener vs. Miami due to double shoulder surgery) and not being in the rotation (Bradley did not play in any of the nine 2010-11 games because he had yet to earn playing time), Bradley has only appeared in 5 of the 22 games. One of those was only for four minutes, and another was the aforementioned glorified pre-season game between the two last April. That leaves just three real games that Bradley has played against Miami's 'A' team, and his impact has been profound.

Boston not only has won all three games, but they've won them by a combined 29 points. His ability to neutralize Wade 1-on-1 has made it much easier for the team to guard Lebron, as help defenders have basically been able to forget Wade (an All-NBA player himself) is even on the court.

Now of course the question becomes, how is Bradley's impact affected by Garnett's absence? Obviously that's the great unknown, but I don't think it will change his ability to guard Wade, and therefore, I think he can still cause Miami issues.

So while every Celtics fan should still cross their fingers that KG is in the line-up, don't completely count the C's out if he isn't.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

Michael Dyer 3/18/2013 05:29:00 PM Edit
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