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Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley returns after 18-game absence, starts vs. Hawks

02.27.17 at 6:27 pm ET
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Jan 6, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley returns after an 18-game absence with a sore Achilles. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For the first time since Jan. 16, Avery Bradley will take the court for the Celtics in a game.

And coach Brad Stevens is going to see quickly if the shooting guard is really ready.

Stevens announced before Monday’s game that Bradley will start against the Hawks after missing the previous 18 games with a sore right Achilles.

Stevens did indicate that Bradley – averaging 34.9 minutes in 36 games this season – would be on a restriction of “15-to-25 minutes” this week as he returns against the Hawks, Cavaliers and Lakers. 

Bradley, who is averaging 17.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season, played against the Hornets on Jan. 16 but clearly wasn’t himself.

He made just 2-of-9 shots from the field (1-for-6 from long range) in 33 minutes, adding three rebounds and three assists in Boston’s 108-98 win.

Prior to that game, Bradley missed the previous four games with the Achilles injury. 

Bradley reiterated before the game what he said two weeks ago, that he was anxious to return “four weeks ago” but understood the team’s precaution. 

Bradley’s biggest impact could come in an area the Celtics need help – rebounding. His 6.9 average per game leads the team, 0.3 more than Al Horford. He is one of the more athletic No. 2 guards in the league and uses it to effectively rebound. He and Marcus Smart are two of the more physical guards in the East and it’s no coincidence that the Celtics struggled with offensive rebounding in his absence. 

That, of course, was offset by the fact that the other guard, Isaiah Thomas is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season offensively. In Bradley’s 18-game absence, the Celtics went 12-6. They are 15-7 in the last 22 games without him in the lineup. 

With Bradley starting and Stevens indicating that he doesn’t plan to alter his minutes early in the games this week, it means that rookie Jaylen Brown returns to the bench. This move deepens the bench significantly with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart, who returned to his customary sixth-man role beginning with the Raptors game after the All-Star break. 

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