In Game 1 of the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, Celtics guard Avery Bradley tweaked his hamstring, causing angst and emotion across the entire fanbase. Bradley is the team's second leading scorer and known for his tenacious defense, and his loss for the remainder of the series is certainly a buzzkill.
No matter how big of a loss Bradley is, though it might sound cliche, the next man has to step up.
Bryan Rob of Celtics Hub left us with this interesting tidbit following the C's Game 1 loss:
Celtics outscored Hawks 49-29 in second half before Bradley injury. Atlanta outscored Boston 22-18 rest of way.— Brian Robb (@CelticsHub) April 17, 2016
With Bradley out, it's apparent the C's need to dig deep on the bench to find a few players that can match the production. But where do they look?
Marcus Smart will certainly get minutes, but how reliable can he be? With an iffy shot-selection and streaky shooting, Boston will likely have to balance his minutes with a few other options. Smart started Game 2, and after an ice cold start, performed fairly well later on in the contest. If the C's want to come back from a 2-0 deficit, Smart has to produce something consistent or the team's playoff run hopes may be in trouble.
Stevens said the biggest challenge now is deciding whether to go big or small moving forward.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 17, 2016
With some of the backcourt options struggling as of late, especially with Smart/Crowder/Thomas combining for a whopping 6-35 in Game 2, just over 17% from the field, Brad Stevens may look to the front court for an answer.
Tyler Zeller is a popular guy being brought up as of late. After a productive start to his Celtics career, the big man out of North Carolina has struggled with inconsistency and lack of production. With Bradley out, Zeller may be forced to pick up extra minutes to score on the inside and give Al Horford half a lick of defense. In 14 minutes of action, Zeller went 2-7 from the field with four points and five rebounds in Game 2, producing nothing more than a "meh" performance. Zeller has to pick it up if the C's want to pick up a win at home on Friday.
Jared Sullinger has been extremely underwhelming this series for what his talent truly is. He scored just four points along with grabbing four rebounds and one assist in Game 2, a stat line he is more than capable of topping day in and day out. Sullinger is the most talented player in the front court, and needs to start playing with more consistency for the remainder of the series.
Kelly Olynyk was a surprising scratch in Tuesday's contest against the Hawks after it was reported he suffered an injury in the Game 1 matchup. His absence was apparent in the second matchup of the series as no real offensive production began until late in the second quarter. Hopefully Olynyk's shooting will be back for Game 3.
Jonas Jerebko is a player most Celtics fans either love or hate. For every fantastic play he produces off the bench, he'll make another bonehead move that forces you to question how on earth he made an NBA roster in the first place. That being said, Jerebko played fairly well amongst the bigs in Game 2, scoring seven points and pulling down five rebounds, all while maintaining the highest +/- on the team with +8. Jerebko needs to continue with nights like this for the C's to have success.
Jordan Mickey is a fan favorite due to his ridiculous PER and impressive shot blocking ability. He picked up just one minute of action in Game 2, obviously not enough to provide any real production. If Olynyk struggles in his time back, Stevens may send in the LSU product for his first real playoff action of his career. It's unlikely we see Mickey becoming a major factor in the next few games, but a few extra minutes here and there is certainly possible.
Though the bench isn't too deep in terms of the front court, Stevens may have to go back to a more traditional lineup incorporating more minutes for the bigs if the shooting woes continue for the guards. Whether it's one of the seasoned front court veterans or a young backcourt option, someone needs to step up to the plate in Bradley's absence, or the C's may be sent home packing early.
Avery Bradley Photo: Boston Globe
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