|Maturing Avery Bradley relishes playoff experience||05.11.12 at 10:38 am ET|
Every playoff game, as the Celtics starters are being introduced at TD Garden, fans are reminded of Avery Bradley‘s growth as a player. Over the five-year run of the new Big Three era, fans are accustomed to hearing Ray Allen‘s name, but lately it’s Bradley’s who is called.
It takes a little getting used to. After all, moving ahead of arguably the greatest 3-point shooter of all-time in the lineup is no easy feat. As Bradley gains playoff experience, his understanding of the nuances and intricacies of the game at the NBA level increases minute by minute. During the Celtics’ series-clinching 83-80 win in Game 6 Thursday night, Bradley took another step toward maturity when he requested to guard Jeff Teague.
Bradley was stuck guarding Marvin Williams — who, at 6-foot-9, has seven inches on the C’s youngster — and surrendered eight points in the first quarter. It was a tough matchup for Bradley. In the second quarter the Hawks opened up a 28-20 lead and Boston was left searching for answers on both ends of the court.
But as Williams started to cool off, the C’s guard decided to take on a player who has hurt Boston throughout the series, Teague. So, the usually reticent Bradley pitched his desire to shut down the other No. 0 to Doc Rivers.
“He had a great series,” Bradley said of Teague. “I just wanted to come in this game, and I was covering Marvin, and I told the coaches ‘let me pressure Teague a bit.’ Even [Rajon] Rondo came to me and told me to pressure him. I just wanted to make everything hard on him tonight. My main focus was just to slow him down and make things hard on him to get them out of their offense.”
|Avery Bradley is ready for the closeout challenge Thursday||05.10.12 at 2:40 pm ET|
He’s dealing with a “sore” rotator cuff in his left shoulder, the team announced after its shootaround Thursday morning.
He is expected to start and play in Game 6 tonight.
“It’s a little sore,” Bradley said after Thursday’s shootaround. “I’ve been fighting through the pain all year. I’ll be ready for tonight.”
How does he cope?
“Just by not thinking about it,” Bradley added. “I’m going to get hit. There’s a chance it could pop out but I try not to think about it. I just go out there and just play.”
The Celtics lead the series, 3-2, and can close out the Hawks in Game 6, which is set for an 8 p.m. tipoff.
“We’re very focused,” Bradley said. “We know what we need to improve on this game. I feel like we’ll be prepared tonight.”
What does Bradley think will change from Game 5, when the Celtics had a 28-18 lead early in the second quarter, only to have it slip away?
“Just our intensity level,” he said. “We didn’t come out and play as hard as we played the previous game. We know we have to come out and have a strong start, play good defense and there’s a chance we could win the game.”
The Celtics also announced Thursday morning, just hours before their Game 6 showdown with the Hawks, that captain Paul Pierce has a sprained MCL in his left knee but he will be available to play and start in the potential closeout game for Boston.
Pierce injured the knee on Sunday morning during a Celtics shootaround prior to Game 4 at the Garden. He then reinjured hours later in the game when he tried to get around a screen set by Josh Smith.
Celtics officials at the team’s shootaround Thursday were adamant in denying reports of any tears or bone spurs in Pierce’s knee.
|Irish Coffee: 5 questions Celtics must solve in Game 6||05.09.12 at 2:04 pm ET|
In many ways, the Game 5 loss was simply a string of statistical Celtics anomalies that favored the Hawks.
- After making 21-of-82 treys in Games 1-4 (25.6%), The Hawks shot 7-of-16 from 3-point range (43.8%).
- The Hawks committed four more turnovers (18-14), but the Celtics scored four fewer points off them (21-25).
- After the Celtics kept pace on the glass in Games 1-4 (174-178), the Hawks won the Game 5 battle, 41-33.
- Paul Pierce air-balled a would-be go-ahead 20-footer with 18 seconds remaining.
- Rajon Rondo lost his sure handle and failed to deliver a pass while time expired.
Of course, there are reasons for those anomalies, so how must the Celtics adjust to avoid a Game 7 on the road?
|Avery Bradley: ‘Now I’m ready; I’ll be ready in Round 2 as well’||05.07.12 at 1:00 pm ET|
Avery Bradley didn’t play a single minute of the 2011 Celtics playoff run that ended in five games against the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and even before Round 1 of his sophomore season is over he’s already declared himself prepared for the next hurdle in his budding young career. My, how things change.
“It’s been great,” said Bradley of his first four playoff games and his team’s resulting 3-1 series lead. “I’ve been able to learn a lot and gain a lot of confidence. The main thing for me is learning how to approach the playoffs. That was big for me, and now I’m ready; I’ll be ready in Round 2 as well.”
This from a kid who made 8-of-45 field goal attempts outside of three feet as a rookie last season. Bradley had one career 3-point field goal through March 22 of this season. Here’s how far he’s come: Of the C’s first six shots against the Hawks, Bradley took four of them — all outside of 21 feet, on a bum left shoulder.
“It hurt me, but I tried not to think about it,” said Bradley, who left in the third quarter of Game 3 with a recurring left shoulder dislocation. “I just went out there and played hard. I knew my team needed that energy, and that’s what I wanted to bring. It’s been the same. It gets worse as I continue to knock it out, but it’s something that I’m going to continue to get treatment on, strengthen and it’ll get better eventually.”
|Game 4: Celtics need to make better use of Kevin Garnett||05.05.12 at 8:21 pm ET|
On the one hand, Kevin Garnett has attempted 50 shots in the first three games of the Celtics‘ first round playoff series with the Hawks. That’s right around the number of attempts they want out of him. On the other, he’s made only 44 percent of those shots and coach Doc Rivers is concerned that he’s not getting enough open space.
Game 3 was a “little better,” in Rivers’ opinion. Garnett shot 50 percent (9-for-18) and took more than half of those shots from within 15 feet. His follow-up slam at the end of overtime put an exclamation point on the Celtics’ 90-84 victory, as well as his 20-point, 13-rebound performance.
Still, Rivers wants more.
“We have to do a better job as far as Kevin goes,” he said. “I thought early in the game it was lot of jump shots, and we don’t mind that because he’s a great shooter. But we’ve also got to get him down low. It felt like the only way we can get him in the right spot is through an ATO [after timeout], and we have to be able to do that through the flow.”
Garnett’s usually reliable jumper has been shaky. He’s made only 11-of-33 from his beloved 18-20 foot range. That’s a steep decline from the 48 percent he shot in the regular season. Garnett has had only six attempts at the rim and half of those came in Game 3, so Rivers is right. It was a little better.
The biggest problem the Celtics have had in this series is scoring points. Yes, Joe Johnson forced the overtime by sinking a low percentage contested 3, but that’s what Johnson does and it’s part of what makes playing the Hawks a scary proposition. They’re going to make some of them eventually, no matter how good your defense plays.
The real reason the Celtics went to overtime was because they were stuck on 80 for the final four minutes of the game. In those final four minutes, Rondo missed two shots. Pierce missed two shots and committed an offensive foul. It wasn’t until the 40-second mark when Garnett got a look and it was tough 18-footer.
Part of the issue may have been fatigue. Rivers acknowledged after the game that he stuck with Garnett thinking the Celtics could deliver the knockout blow. Instead, they became trapped in yet another grind-it-out slugfest with the Hawks.
“I got stuck with Kevin, honestly,” Rivers said. “Sometimes, honestly, as a coach you take a gamble. You think we can get this, put it away and get guys out. And it backfired.”
Garnett has played 122 minutes in this series, a far cry from the carefully cultivated 5-5-5 plan that routinely resulted in 30-minute nights.
“The way my body feels right now I feel like I went 40-40-40,” said Garnett, which is accurate because he has.
Defensively, he is giving them everything they need. Without Josh Smith, the Hawks used smaller lineups and the only real way the Celtics can matchup is by taking Brandon Bass off the floor and leaving Garnett to patrol the paint. (It was also not helpful that Avery Bradley injured his shoulder late in the third quarter and wasn’t able to return).
Garnett has been excellent on the defensive glass, grabbing 27 percent of the available defensive boards. They have only allowed 17 offensive rebounds and their .784 defensive rebounding percentage ranks third in the league during the postseason. All the Celtics have been making an effort on the defensive boards, but it’s Garnett who sets the tone, especially when he’s the only big on the floor.
“He was terrific,” Rivers said. “Kevin had to do all the talking. He was basically the linebacker on the floor. All by himself and that’s hard. That’s a hard job to do.”
As always with Garnett, there’s the constant tension of doing what he does so well and then giving a little bit more. The Celtics have survived three games of this tight series without a vintage scoring performance, even with a 20 and 13 game on 9-for-18 shooting. Read the rest of this entry »
|Ray Allen: ‘I wasn’t holding anything back’||at 1:40 am ET|
It’s really all anyone wanted to know from Ray Allen after Game 3 – how’s the ankle and do you think you’ll be ready for Game 4 Sunday night at the Garden?
“Now it’s achy,” Allen said after the game. “It feels like it’s just mad at me a little bit. So, I’ve been here before. It seems like I have all these safeguards in place. When I get home, I know exactly what I need to do. I have my contraptions to make sure I’m able to go to sleep well and get up in the morning and get my treatment. So, I’m in a good place.
“I think over the past couple of weeks, people have asked me, ‘Can you get in a game and play five minutes, just stand in a corner and make people think you’re going to shoot it.’ I knew once I got out there, I was going to be out there to run up and down and move whichever way I need to move. I wasn’t holding anything back, once I got into the offense.”
After playing 37 minutes in his first game back since April 10, Allen said he could tell he was in a tense NBA playoff game. But all things considered, after scoring 13 points in Boston’s 90-84 overtime win over Atlanta in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Allen said he and his left ankle came out of it feeling as good as could be expected.
“Starting the game it was great,” Allen said. “I think going into half was when it started to tighten up on me and I started noticing a little more than I’ve noticed but similar to what I’ve been dealing with. Just sitting on the sideline, I just did what I could to make sure I kept it loose by stretching it. But once I went back in the game, there’s not really a moment to think about it. Your adrenaline is rushing, being in the building, my adrenaline is rushing.”
Doc Rivers had to pay particularly close attention. He was without Avery Bradley for most of the second half after losing him to a recurring left shoulder injury. And the minutes on Allen started to shoot through the roof, that and the Celtics were forced to go with a three-guard look because the Hawks were going small with their lineup that was missing three big men.
‘I thought the legs were shot at the end,” Rivers said of Allen, who missed one of two free throws in overtime. “We started trying to use him for decoy. He was terrific. And like I told you before the game ‘ someone asked me, ‘Would there be a minute restriction?’ I said, ‘No, because we don’t know when he’ll play again or not.’ You know? So I’m getting everything I can get out of him each game. I’m saying that jokingly, but somewhat true as well. Tonight honestly, we needed him. It’s amazing the difference when he’s on the floor in our spacing, and how much more difficult it is for guys to help.
“We’re giving them the day off tomorrow because they’re exhausted. And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something; he would shoot, or something. So that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.’
Paul Pierce was more than impressed with Allen.
‘Just having him out there really picked us up because we haven’t seen Ray in a jersey in so long,” Pierce said. “Just having him out there, you heard the reaction from the crowd when he checked into the game. Stuff like that brings so much energy to the ball club, to have a guy that’s so vital come out there and give us a big lift. It’s huge having him out there, especially tonight with Avery going down.”
Allen, who has received intense treatment and cortisone shots to manage the pain, admitted that as the game continued, he could feel the bone spurs give him discomfort. Read the rest of this entry »
|How the Celtics played without Rajon Rondo||04.30.12 at 5:16 pm ET|
ATLANTA — On Jan. 18, Rajon Rondo fell hard on his wrist in a game against the Raptors and missed the next eight games. His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Celtics, who were trying to dig themselves out of a 4-8 hole to start the season. Those fears appeared justified two days later when they struggled to score 71 points in a dreadful home loss to the Suns.
Bradley would often bring the ball up the floor, hand off to Pierce and disappear to the corner, allowing Pierce and Brandon Bass to run pick and pops to their hearts content. Even with Rondo, the Celtics get most of their offense from the perimeter, and without their slashing guard they moved further out and attempted more shots from outside the paint.
The C’s won six of their next seven — the lone loss came in a fourth quarter collapse against the Cavs (the Kyrie Irving game) — and their offense actually functioned better than their average in four of those games in terms of points per possession. Pierce scored almost 23 points per game in those seven contests and handed out 54 assists. Bradley had a handful of standout games in that stretch, but mainly he kept his turnovers low and tried to minimize mistakes.
It was on defense where Bradley made his mark, decimating Orlando’s Jameer Nelson in one memorable outing and establishing himself as the best on-the-ball defensive guard in the league. Most importantly, he proved that he could handle the increased responsibility and playing time.
“We had a few games that Rondo wasn’t able to play that prepared me for situations like this,” Bradley said at the team’s practice at Georgia Tech on Monday.
Rondo was suspended for Tuesday’s Game 2 by the NBA after he bumped referee Marc Davis late in Game 1. That January stretch stands out as one of the few highlights of the first half of the Celtics’ season and offers a glimpse at what life without Rondo will entail for Game 2 of their playoff series with the Hawks. Read the rest of this entry »
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