Winning this season’s Sixth Man of the Year award, Malcolm Brogdon had a fantastic year with the Boston Celtics. Brogdon added that extra big of production on the offensive-end of the floor that Boston was missing in the NBA Finals a season ago, which is why they were title favorites heading into the postseason.
He played a big role in their series win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but after scoring 19 points in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, Brogdon has been non-existent. This is due to the fact that he has been dealing with a partially torn tendon in his right arm/elbow.
Since suffering this injury in Game 1 against the Heat while attempting to box out Kevin Love, Brogdon’s overall production has declined to the point where he is a major liability to have on the floor. Over the last four games of this series, Brogdon has averaged just over 17 minutes per game and he has scored 15 total points, 13 of which came in Game 2. He scored 0 points in Game 3, 2 points in Game 4 and 0 points in Game 5 on Thursday night.
In fact, the Celtics’ sixth man did not even play much in his team’s Game 5 victory and he left the game after just eight minutes with what the team called “right forearm soreness.” As for what head coach Joe Mazzulla thinks, he left his response to questions about Brogdon after the game very short and very non-useful for reporters:
“He gave us the best he could and then we kind of went from there.”
Losing Brogdon is alarming for the Celtics, especially since they are looking to become the first team in league history to overcome an 0-3 deficit in the playoffs. At this point, it is hard to imagine Brogdon making much of an impact in last couple of games in this series, which is why the Celtics are lucky to have Derrick White.
Emerging as a major X-factor for them a season ago after he was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs, White had a terrific first full season in Boston. He made the All-Defensive team this year and despite his struggles early on in this series, White has really responded with Brogdon going down and his team’s back up against the wall. These last two games, White is averaging 20.0 points and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 61.9 percent from the floor and 60.0 percent from three-point range.
Game 5 on Thursday night was probably White’s best playoff performance this year, shooting 8-11 from the floor and 6-8 from three-point range, which is why he is the key for the Celtics moving forward in this series. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum cannot do everything for Boston offensively, especially given the fact that the Heat are an elite defensive team. Brogdon was the team’s third key scoring option, but with him sidelined and his status for Game 6 unknown, White needs to continue being the guy his teammates turn to for secondary production.
“It’s going to be a grind,” White said looking ahead to the next game of this series. “They’re going to come back and play well, their crowd is going to be in it. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to take 48 minutes of battling, scratching, clawing and we have to find a way to win.”
As far as Brogdon and his status moving forward, the Celtics have not provided any clarity into his situation. Whether or not his arm injury is actually the main reason for his lack of production is unknown, but it is hard to imagine that this injury is not affecting him.
Brogdon has looked weaker, he has looked irritated and he has looked very uncomfortable shooting the ball. Entering this series against Miami, he was shooting 30-69 (43.5 percent) from three-point range. Against the Heat though, Brogdon has shot just 3-16 (18.7 percent) from three-point range.
Facing elimination from here on out, the Celtics will need to make a decision about how many minutes Brogdon can give them, that is assuming he is going to play in Game 6 and/or possibly a Game 7 in this series. Regardless of his minutes and production though, White needs to continue being the third guy for the Celtics if they are to even up this series in Miami and have a shot at making history in a winner takes all scenario to advance to the 2023 NBA Finals.