Well, they got one. Now it’s time for step two on the journey no team before them has ever completed.
The Celtics host the Heat in Game 5 on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. looking to stay alive and send the series back to Miami once again. As they do so, they’ll need to figure out a strategically sound game plan regarding Malcolm Brogdon’s minutes and role.
Brogdon, who hasn’t looked like himself this series, has been “playing through a partial tear in the tendon coming out of his right elbow that leads into his forearm,” per The Athletic’s Jared Weiss. Yes, it’s affected his ability to shoot quite a bit, and no, it’s not an excuse.
This is one of those “Ahh, OK. That makes sense” moments. A guy who prides himself on his consistency, elite shooting and poise has been inconsistent, cold and erratic at times.
Brogdon hasn’t necessarily been a liability, but he hasn’t been his usual extremely effective or efficient self either. He’s averaging just 8.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2 assists in the series – well below his season averages of 14.9, 4.2 and 4.6.
In the last two, he’s shot just 1-for-11 en route to two points in 35 total minutes. Again, this all makes sense given the injury, but it comes at a rather unfortunate and pivotal juncture for the Celtics.
Will he play in Game 5? It seems like it. If so, will he continue to see a reduced role? Will coach Joe Mazzulla give Payton Pritchard or Sam Hauser some of his minutes? In a series where the Heat have generally dominated the 3-point line, playing either Pritchard and Hauser could potentially pay dividends.
Or will Mazzulla keep the rotation to seven guys and let Derrick White essentially double dip in his own role and Brogdon’s? That’s the more likely outcome, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an eighth guy.
If Brogdon is having trouble shooting, maybe he can morph his mindset into becoming a pass-first point guard? A partial tear in one’s tendon sounds rather unpleasant, so it’s fair to assume he won’t be on his A-game. But if he can find ways to contribute on his B or C game, that could go a long way.
Brogdon is one of the most intelligent players in the league, so he’s probably tinkering in his head right now and figuring out ways to contribute.
While a 20-7-7 game would be nice, it’s unrealistic to expect that at this point. If he can give the Celtics 10-4-4, with a positive plus-minus, that might be enough.
While Brogdon has struggled, Derrick White has had a strong series – averaging 11.8 points while shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from 3-point range. So, if White and Brogdon are out there together, perhaps Brogdon can predominantly play point and the hot-shooting White can spot up and fire away.
The Celtics have tons of shooting and playmaking all over, so Brogdon doesn’t need to do anything outside his comfort zone. He simply has to value the ball, make the right play and manage the pain.
While the situation is far from ideal for all parties, it isn’t necessarily a backbreaker unless the Celtics let it become one.