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How should the Celtics proceed without Avery Bradley?

Celtics guard Avery Bradley injured his hamstring in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Hawks.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

ATLANTA — The Celtics arrived for practice at Georgia Tech on Sunday afternoon showing the physical effects from a costly Game 1 loss to the Hawks. Guard Marcus Smart sat out with his jammed left index finger wrapped in tape, and forward Kelly Olynyk said he aggravated the right shoulder injury that caused him to miss 12 games this season.

But the most concerning thing was that Avery Bradley was nowhere to be seen.

After straining his left hamstring in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 102-101 loss on Saturday, Bradley had remained hopeful that two days of rest and treatment would be enough to recover. When he needed a staff member to help him put on his socks before limping out of the locker room with a crutch, though, he did not look like someone who was 48 hours away from a fast break.


On Sunday, coach Brad Stevens said that Bradley’s strain was “pretty significant,” and that it was doubtful that he would play again in this series, which could stretch for two more weeks.

“We lost another guy that brings it every night,” Smart said, “and everybody else has to step up now.”

The Celtics must find their way without Bradley in a series that already posed great challenges. For Stevens, there is one basic but critical conundrum to untangle: Should they go big or stay small?

In Game 1, the Celtics primarily used guard-heavy, skilled lineups, as they looked to space the floor and break out in transition. To proceed with that approach, though, would require more extensive opportunities for inexperienced players such as Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and James Young.

Alternatively, the Celtics could deploy a lineup consisting of more traditional frontcourt players, an area where they do have veteran depth. And there is at least one indicator that that might be an approach worth considering. Bradley missed the Celtics’ 106-93 home win over the Hawks on Nov. 13 because of a bruised leg.


In that game, Celtics big men Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger combined to play 60 minutes, 14 more than their regular-season averages. Also, forward David Lee and 7-footer Tyler Zeller combined for 18 minutes off the bench. Lee is now with the Mavericks, and Zeller did not play in Game 1.

In that Celtics win in November, they crushed the Hawks in the post, holding a 50-35 rebounding edge and outscoring them on second-chance points, 24-7. After the game, Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson, who coached in place of Mike Budenholzer, said that the Celtics had been the more physical team and that Atlanta had struggled to match up inside. He referred to rebounding as “one of our weak points.”

The season was just eight games old then, but Atlanta finished the year with a 47.5 rebounding percentage, ranking 28th in the NBA.

If nothing else, that win over the Hawks without Bradley should give the Celtics the confidence to know they can do it again. In fact, they are 0-4 against Atlanta this year when Bradley plays, and 1-0 when he does not.

Bradley has missed four games since Jan. 1, and Evan Turner has started for him in all of them and played 36.5 minutes per game, 8.5 above his season average. Smart, who played extremely well in Game 1, would seem to be in line for an uptick in minutes as well.


“I think the one thing about having a guy like Avery out is you’ve got guys like Marcus Smart and Evan Turner that have played a starter’s role for us all year off the bench,” Stevens said, “and so both those guys are going to be critically important to replacing Avery or adding to what they normally do.”

Even if the Celtics deploy a more traditional lineup in Game 2, it is still likely that at least one of the younger guards will get an opportunity. Rozier said that after Saturday’s loss, Stevens told him to get some rest and be ready to play.

The fast, athletic rookie could be helpful in defending Atlanta’s speedy guards, Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder.

“I know Coach loves when I push the pace, loves when we play fast,” Rozier said. “He doesn’t like when we play slow. So I think I can help doing that.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.