The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat face off tonight in the second game of the Eastern Conference Finals. After such a condensed regular season in the NBA, injuries have dramatically affected both of these teams playoff runs so far.
For the Miami Heat, losing Chris Bosh appears to have given their players on the court more direction. No longer do they have three scorers to satisfy as Lebron James and Dwayne Wade each take turns to carry the load now.
Without Bosh, the Heat appear to be faster all around while their role players have stepped up. Of course that could easily be a coincidence, but I don't believe in coincidences when there is repetition involved. There is no doubt that Bosh is a very good basketball player, but one must wonder how valuable he is to the Heats' chances of success?
It's not completely clear if Bosh has hurt or helped the Heats' chances of beating the Celtics in this series, but they will need him back if they are to win in the Finals. The Celtics are hoping that Bosh's injury will be made moot as they try to move onto the NBA Finals instead of the Heat.
While Bosh is out for the Heat, the Celtics have been decimated by injuries. It is somewhat of a miracle that they are even in this situation despite having two soft boiled eggs to overcome in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Beating the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers isn't really an achievement, but beating them in the playoffs, or even reaching the playoffs at all, is an amazing achievement considering the injuries the Celtics have dealt with this year.
What would this series look like if Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal or even Chris Wilcox were still available?
Passed that, what if Ray Allen was fully healthy? Or if Paul Pierce wasn't playing through an MCL sprain?
The greatest question mark is not how much would these players help, but how much would Kevin Garnett be doing with them on the roster. In some way, inserting those players back into the starting lineup isn't as simple as adding pepper to soup. You can't simply shake these players into the squad and expect results.
Having Jeff Green and Jermaine O'Neal back would severely change the identity of Doc Rivers' side. O'Neal's presence would have pushed Garnett to his natural power forward in the starting lineup while Jeff Green would likely have taken a large portion of his minutes away from him.
Just like Bosh's injury, we can't really be sure if Green or O'Neal would have helped the Celtics. Obviously they would have better depth coming off the bench but whether Brandon Bass performs as well as he has as a starter, in limited minutes is unclear.
This last stand from the Celtics largely only came about because of Avery Bradley's emergence. Losing Bradley for the playoffs has really stolen the youngster's opportunity to define his season against Dwyane Wade.
Bradley has the skill set to really frustrate Wade as he excels on the defensive side of the ball. His addition would have hugely improved the Celtics roster as Ray Allen tries to play through the pain and limitations that come with his ankle injury.
Allen isn't offering the Celtics a whole lot right now and won't return to the bench for Keyon Dooling. He was happy to do so during the year when Bradley was fully healthy however.
Age and injuries are two things that many fans are already using to excuse any forthcoming loss in the playoffs, the reality is we don't know if the Celtics would even be in this position had they not gone through all of those injuries.
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