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The Celtics have yet to rule Bradley out for good, and will take it on a day-to-day basis, but with the risk that his left shoulder will pop out of its socket again — it already has three times during the playoffs, twice during the 76ers series alone — and cause structural damage, it’s better to shut down the second-year guard.
Bradley is already likely facing surgery for the lingering ailment, something that has bothered him throughout the season, and with his future looking bright in a Boston uniform, why risk any further damage to the 21-year-old guard?
Unfortunately for the Celtics, Bradley had molded into a key player for them after taking over for Ray Allen in the starting five. Aside from his spectacular defense, his offensive game — which was spotty at best during his rookie campaign and the start of this season — rounded out with a decent jumper and better nose for attacking the basket. Bradley started the postseason very well, scoring a very aggressive 24 points in the first two games against the Hawks, but his shoulder popped out for the first time in Game 3, and his game has not been the same since.
So now, the Celtics have to hope Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus can help carry the load. Allen, nursing a bad ankle, looked awful in Boston’s Game 6 loss Wednesday night, shooting 4-for-11 (including 1-for-5 from three-point range) and finishing with nine points in 25 minutes. Pietrus was a little better, playing solid defense in his 35 minutes on the floor (something Ray has not offered this postseason), but he seems disinterested on offense. If Allen cannot provide a scoring boost for the C’s, Pietrus (and possibly even reserve guard Keyon Dooling) will have to step up in that department.
What the Celtics will miss most is Bradley’s youth and aggressiveness on both sides of the floor. He loved attacking the basket, often giving Rajon Rondo a quick guard to dump the ball to as he drives to the hoop. Bradley is one of the better, if not best, on-ball defender on the team, and his absence was felt in Game 6 with Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday getting to the C’s in the fourth quarter.
Losing Bradley is a big blow to the Celtics, especially if they advance to the conference finals. But in the long-term, it’s better for the future of the team to protect one of their potential cornerstones.