Avery Bradley has been a fan favorite for months now. And we all thought he'd be our Wade-stopper in the Eastern Conference Finals. Sadly, it was not to be. So how does Avery's absence affect the rest of the Celtics?
Turns out it affects everyone, in different ways.
Rajon Rondo -- The most obvious effect is probably on Rondo. Rajon and Avery were great offensive mates, a super-quick combo that loved to team up for some spectacular plays. Avery became a great cutter, particularly from the corners, and Rondo loved finding him under the rim for the easy 2. Or in the corner for his ever-improving 3-ball.
But it's on defense where Bradley had his biggest impact on Rondo. It was Bradley out there hounding opposing point guards, allowing Rondo to rest a little more between offensive sets. And on a more subtle level, Avery's unrelenting style, his incredible work ethic, seemed to rub off on Rajon... who just seemed to work harder when AB was out there with him.
Kevin Garnett -- The impact of Avery's absence on KG is perhaps less obvious, but will probably be pivotal in the ECF. Without Avery to hound Wade and bring him under some reasonable control, we are likely to see a LOT of penetration by Wade, in addition of course to Lebron. The Cs can hope to slow LBJ down by committee.... but it's going to be a lot harder, if not impossible, to stop both of Miami's Big 2 that way. To do that, they need a tenacious, incredibly athletic hound dog... they need Avery Bradley. Barring AB's contributions, the last line of defense when Lebron or Wade penetrate will be..... Kevin Garnett.
Which means KG is probably going to be accumulating fouls at a significantly faster-than-usual rate. If/when that happens, the Celtics have no answers. KG MUST PLAY for the Cs to have any shot at winning this thing. If he's going to be sitting with fouls.... it will be all she wrote.
Ray Allen -- Here the impact of Bradley's loss is clearest. No Bradley means Ray Allen MUST play. But Ray -- bless his steel heart -- is in a lot of pain from ankle bone spurs. He's nowhere near the athlete he was (and will be again after he gets those bone spurs fixed!), and I think it's torture for him to keep playing big minutes. Sorry Ray. Fate's been unkind this year. To you, to the Celtics, to all of us.
Paul Pierce -- is possibly least affected by the loss of Bradley, but he doesn't get away scot-free either. When Avery was doing his thing, he'd often lead the fast break.... running much, much faster than anyone else on the team. (His speed is unreal.) Which means Paul didn't have to run back every time to score. The kid took care of it. And every little bit of saved energy is more for Paul to draw from in crunch time.
Team as a whole -- Bradley was able to slow down opposing offenses on a regular basis, often forcing them to start their sets with only 10 or 12 seconds left on the shot clock. To say nothing of his outright steals, of course. And his rapidly improving scoring. And his incredible ENERGY. The kid was a great contributor, and his absence hurts.
Bottom line: the loss of Avery Bradley was a critical event for the Cs this year. It affects every member of the team, some more than others. The aggregate impact is huge. Logic tells me it's an insurmountable loss. But -- in what's become my personal favorite phrase this playoff season -- it's still true that anything's possible. The Celtics have the kind of heart I suspect the Heat will never understand. And maybe Fate will go bother somebody else for a while... after hammering us all season.