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Irish Coffee: The rise of Avery Bradley’s offense

Lost in the rubble of a 3-point barrage that left a 118-110 loss to the Knicks in its dust lay another stellar offensive performance from newest Celtics [1] starter Avery Bradley [2].

By now, everyone knows of Bradley’s defensive exploits, but his shooting of late has been downright Ray Allen [3]-esque. That’s not to say Bradley is a clone of the man he’s replaced in the starting lineup, but his 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting against the Knicks — including 5-of-6 from long distance — can’t be ignored.

In 15 games since joining Rajon Rondo [4], Paul Pierce [5], Brandon Bass [6] and Kevin Garnett [7] in the first five on March 25 (with the exception of an 87-86 loss to the Spurs), Bradley is averaging 14.2 points while shooting 53.1 percent from the field (86-162 FG), 56.7 percent from beyond the arc (17-30 3P) and 85.7 percent from the line (24-28 FT). He’s reached double figures in 11 of those 15 games, including the last four.

Like his lockdown defense, Bradley’s knack for getting open underneath the basket has been no secret, especially to willing passers Rondo, Pierce and Garnett. Almost half of his field goal attempts have come within three feet of the basket, where he’s shooting 66.0 percent, and two-thirds of those buckets came from assists.

But the 3-point shooting is the biggest surprise, if only since it seemingly sprung from nowhere. In his previous 76 games as a pro, Bradley was a combined 2-of-18 (11.1 3P%), and even worse based on the eye test. The fact he shot close to 40 percent from distance as a Findlay Prep senior and Texas freshman had long been forgotten.

Likewise, Bradley’s mid-range jump shot has improved leaps and bounds. Ninety percent of Bradley’s field goal attempts this season have come either within three feet of the basket or outside of 15 feet, and nearly a third of them are taken between 16 and 23 feet, where he shot 21.0 percent as a rookie.

Thanks to 8-of-16 shooting from that range over his past four games, he’s now shooting 39.2 percent from 16-23 feet for the season (47-120 FG), which ranks him just outside of the top third among guards who average 20 minutes a night — ahead of guys like J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo, Deron Williams, Monta Ellis [8], Tony Parker [9], Derrick Rose [10], Dwyane Wade [11], Richard Hamilton [12], Manu Ginobili [13], James Harden [14] and even Ray Allen.

Meanwhile, Celtics president Danny Ainge was shopping Allen for Mayo, according to Yahoo! columnist Adrian Wojnarowski [15], when he had his replacement on the roster all along. Go figure.

To imagine Bradley’s offense as anything but a few easy buckets around the basket appeared a pipe dream, even if some within the Celtics organization remained confident he was a better shooter than he had proven over the first year and a half of his career, but as Mark Twain once wrote, “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.” And boy is Bradley confident, even while most watching remained ignorant.