Boston Celtics at Miami Heat (8:30ET on ESPN): Game 1
- Stat: With Avery Bradley on the floor during the regular season, Dwyane Wade’s +/- per 36 minutes was -2.1. When Bradley was on the bench, Wade registered a +9.2 mark, an improvement of 11.3 points.
- Take: Though he’s out for tonight’s game 1, the status of Chris Bosh for the remainder Eastern Conference Finals is still up in the air. With each passing day, though, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll miss the majority of this series even if it goes the maximum seven games. That’s obviously a huge coup for Boston on both ends of the floor, as the Heat are left without an ideal defender for Kevin Garnett and the spacing Bosh provides the Miami offense is key against a Celtics attack that overloads the strong side of the floor to yield jumpers from the other. All that said, the injury that could have as much or more impact on the outcome of this series is that of Bradley, Boston’s quick, strong, aggressive, menacing, and best (pay this no attention in thinking differently) perimeter defender. On the surface Bradley seems a near perfect matchup for Dwyane Wade, especially given the way he sliced and diced through Indiana’s defense to devastating effect and efficiency in the final three games of round two. Though Wade’s one of the more underrated back to the basket scoring options in the league and has 30 or more pounds on Bradley, he didn’t post to great success against the Pacers and the Celtics typically don’t yield many opportunities of that ilk anyway, so the clear advantages he has on Bradley – strength and length, in that order – don’t influence this particular matchup the way those aspects of Wade’s overwhelming physical profile normally do (Bradley, it should be noted, actually did very well defending Wade in the paint during the regular season). Unfortunately this is all for naught, of course, as Bradley’s unstable left shoulder failed him one too many times and the Celtics rightly shut him down for the remainder of the playoffs, robbing us of what was arguably going to be the best individual battle (on one end of the floor, at least) of either Conference Finals. Boston and not the blogosphere is the one really fretting Bradley’s loss, though, as his effectiveness checking Wade is fleshed out in many more ways than just basic plus/minus. As is our recent tendency, to the bullets for emphasis! (Wade’s numbers per 36 minutes with Bradley on court in green, off court in red)
- Points: 15.2 vs. 22.6
- FG%: 33% vs. 54%
- Free Throw Attempts: 4.8 vs. 7.3
- Assists: 3.5 vs. 6.7
- …And tears slowly roll down from the eyes of Celtics fans everywhere. Bradley’s loss just can’t be overstated, and these numbers bear that out. Look at it like this – Wade’s a low efficiency, ball-dominant, can’t-shoot shooting guard when Bradley is guarding him, and is the Dwyane Wade we’ve come to know over his nine-year career otherwise. And while sample size is always a tricky thing in relating regular season results to the postseason, Wade played almost as many minutes with Bradley on the court, 52, as he did with Bradley on the bench, 59. No, we don’t have years of data that suggest Bradley is the quintessential “Wade-stopper,” but combining what we saw these past few lockout months with what we know of Bradley as a defender overall is easily enough to conservatiely say that his presence bothers Wade. Something that is much more than can be said for an ever-hobbled Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus or scrapheap pieces like Keyon Dooling and Sasha Pavlovic. And with Wade rolling like almost never before, that’s a sobering thought for a Boston team that must keep the score in the low 80s to have a puncher’s chance in this series.