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Avery Bradley: ‘We have a chip on our shoulder. We feel like we can go a lot further than last year’ 04.15.16 at 4:17 pm ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley celebrates next to Miami Heat forward Luol Deng Wednesday at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley celebrates next to Miami Heat forward Luol Deng Wednesday at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM  –  The way Avery Bradley looks at it, this first round series against Atlanta is as a good time as any for redemption and respect for this new wave of Celtic pride. 

Bradley has been in the playoffs before with the Celtics. He was a key member of the team’s run to the Eastern finals in 2012. He was an observer off the bench as the team came within 12 minutes of a world championship in his rookie season of 2010. Last year, he was the elder statesman that many younger guns like Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas looked up to for leadership against Cleveland. 

Now, with last year’s four-game sweep a distant memory, it’s time to prove that this year’s 48-34 record was no fluke. As a matter of fact, the only what Bradley believes they can truly earn respect is with a series win over the Hawks, and that starts Saturday at Philips Arena. 

“I’m ready. This is what we prepare all year for, the opportunity to be in the playoffs,” Bradley said. “[Saturday] we have a chance to go out there and show all the hard work that we’ve put in this year. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

How is the mindset different from last year at this time?

“It’s different. I feel like we have a little more experience. Last year, we got a little taste and it was kind of embarrassing, even though we were playing the No. 2 seed. This year, I feel like it’s a lot different. We have a chip on our shoulder and we feel like we can go a lot further than last year. I think it’s a lot different. We’re a lot more confident. Obviously, if you have that experience in something, everybody is going to be a lot more confidence. If they’re nervous of the crowd, the media, whatever it is. We’re a lot more comfortable. We’re just going to go out there and play basketball, just worry about basketball.

“We’ve been playing together, a lot of the guys, the core group of the guys have been playing together for three years, two years. I think can carry into the playoffs because when we’re going through adversity, we’re like a family. We can all sit each other down, look each other in the eyes and dig deep and go out there and play as hard as we can for one another. That’s the most important thing for us as a young team and the playoffs, because we need to stay together every single possession, even if somebody turns the ball over. We have to make sure we’re mature enough to stay positive.”

The “chip-on-the-shoulder” and “no respect” cards are two of the oldest in pro sports. It’s one the Celtics clearly are not afraid to play as their playoff season begins.

“We’re the underdog,” Isaiah Thomas said of starting the series on the road. “I watch NBA TV, I watch all the little things, they have Atlanta winning. Everybody has Atlanta winning. They all count us out. The pressure’s on Atlanta. We just have to go in there and execute and do what we’ve been doing all year and I think we give ourselves a good chance to win this series.”

And what about the chip on the shoulder? 

“We better. They always, for some reason they look past us. I guess that’s just the way it is and we like it like that,” Thomas added. 

“We’ve been able to embrace it and run with it, use it as motivation,” Jae Crowder said. “A lot of guys in our locker room have really embraced that and used that. I think it’s all about accepting it and moving on, and we have. And we feed off it.”

“With us being a underdog and kind of being disrespected by a lot of people, I think a lot of people fear us because of how hard we play,” added Jared Sullinger. “It showed in our last regular season game. That game was if we win, we don’t know where we’ll be at. If we lose, we wind up in the sixth spot, but we’re still in the playoffs. To have the mindset of knowing that was game 82 and it really didn’t matter the outcome of the game, if we were going to be in the playoffs or not. The mindset of us just going out there and letting everyone know this is the type of team we are, by coming back and winning — that’s big time. That’s who we are and what we do.”

Bradley is convinced that if the Celtics can bottle up the defensive effort of the second half against Miami and bring it with them to Atlanta to start the series, they’ll be in great shape. 

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Avery Bradley on facing Hawks: ‘I think it’s good for us’ 04.14.16 at 12:27 am ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley celebrates next to Miami Heat forward Luol Deng Wednesday at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley celebrates next to Heat forward Luol Deng during Wednesday’s game. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

The guesswork is over. 

The No. 5 seed Celtics will be playing the No. 4 Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. 

“I think it’s good for us, for our sake we get to play them again especially how, our performance the last time,” Avery Bradley said. “We played them there in Atlanta, gives us a chance to go back and play the way we did [Wednesday].”

Well, at least in the second half Wednesday. 

The Celtics were a no-show for 24 minutes on Wednesday night before outscoring the Heat 25-5 in the third quarter and getting themselves back in the game with intense defense. 

The Hawks team they will be facing beat them three of four times in the regular season, including this past Saturday, when the Celtics couldn’t hold a late 87-75 lead. In that game, they were outscored 43-20 down the stretch and lost by 11, 118-107. 

“Well, obviously Atlanta’s really good,” Brad Stevens said. “Atlanta’s beaten us three out of four times and they’ve got some tough matchups. They’re a good basketball team. A really good basketball team.  And so we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to competing against them, we’re looking forward to preparing for them.

“And so, as far as [Wednesday], we just had to decide that we were going to play differently, and we were going to get back to being ourselves a little bit.  That didn’t mean that we were going to make every shot, turn them over, or they were going to miss open shots, but it meant that we were going to, you know, compete at a different level than we were.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens
Will Celtics really be ready for playoffs? 04.12.16 at 11:55 am ET
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After consecutive losses to playoff teams on Saturday and Monday, there is a little doubt creeping into the minds of Celtics fans. 

Are the Celtics the team that beat Golden State and Cleveland on the road and posted a 47-32 record in their first 79 games? Or are they the team that has been exposed in the second half in Atlanta and the entirety of their humiliating loss to the Hornets on Monday night at home?

Avery Bradley said after Saturday’s game in Atlanta that the Celtics looked at times to be a team fighting itself and playing tight. After Monday’s 114-100 loss to Charlotte at TD Garden, Bradley laid it out on the line for a team that was outscored 39-13 in the second quarter and blown out of its own building. 

“All the credit to them. We just have to prepare and try to fix all the mistakes we had,” Bradley said. “I know the coach said it. I’m pretty sure everybody else is going to say it. We just have to try to fix all the small things that we did [wrong] because in the playoffs, if we make these same mistakes, we might lose by 40.” 

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
Evan Turner cleared for ‘light non-contact’ Thursday, ‘chance’ of playing Friday 04.06.16 at 7:48 pm ET
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Evan Turner

Evan Turner

Evan Turner continues to make progress from the injury to his left eye suffered in Sunday’s win over the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens announced before Wednesday’s game with the Pelicans at TD Garden that the guard has been cleared to do some work in practice on Thursday, holding out hope that he might be available against the Bucks on Friday.

“Evan just saw the doctor again today,” Stevens said. “He’s set to do light non-contact shooting [Thursday] with a chance that he’d play on Friday.”

Stevens did not want to put a specific percentage on Turner’s availability for Friday or whether he might need protective goggles when he returns.

“To be determined. I don’t know the answer to that,” Stevens said. “I think it’s one of those situations where they’ll reassess on Friday and figure that out.”

Turner, in one of his trademark stylish camouflage sweaters, was in good spirits with the team on the bench during Wednesday’s game against the Pelicans, cheering and offering support. He was wearing his normal eye glasses, as he was on Monday when he posted a picture on Instagram.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Isaiah Thomas
Sleep-deprived Avery Bradley returns from daddy duties to help Celtics tune up for playoffs 04.05.16 at 7:35 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Being a leader on a team can be difficult and demanding by itself.

Throw being a new sleep-deprived dad on top of it, and anyone would have their senses overwhelmed.

Bradley welcomed his second child into the world at the tail end of Boston’s five-game road swing through the West, explaining his absence from the team on Sunday night against the Lakers. 

Without Bradley in the building Sunday, the Celtics guards of Evan Turner, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier allowed Kobe Bryant to score 34 points but held the retiring superstar to 11-of-28 from the field.

“I know it was Kobe. I’m just happy the way our team performed,” Bradley said of the 107-100 win. “We try to play great team defense, and he was hitting tough shots. I’m just happy we were able to get the win.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart
Brad Stevens rules out Evan Turner (eye abrasion) for Wednesday, hopeful for Friday at 2:41 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Brad Stevens feels the Celtics and Evan Turner might have caught a big break. 

The eye poke to the guard’s left eye Sunday night in Los Angeles resulted in just an abrasion, and Turner might be able to return Friday night against the Bucks at TD Garden. 

Still, after a long red-eye flight back on Sunday night after the 107-100 win over the Lakers, the Celtics told Turner to stay home from Tuesday’s practice, get rest and let the healing continue. 

“Evan is good. He’s at home,” Stevens said before practice. “He’s not going to be here today, not going to practice today. He’s not going to play [Wednesday]. But he should be day-to-day after that. The ophthalmologist saw him [Monday] and obviously, if he were to play [Wednesday], he would probably be a day ahead of schedule and force him to wear goggles, whatever the case may be. 

“We’re hopeful that he can be feeling pretty good by Friday. So, I think giving him that extra two days is a probably a good thing anyway.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Jonas Jerebko
Avery Bradley (personal) not with team, Jae Crowder returns to starting lineup vs. Lakers 04.03.16 at 9:18 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

The Celtics will have to avoid a massive letdown without the services of Avery Bradley. 

Coach Brad Stevens confirmed before the game in Los Angeles that the best defensive player in the starting lineup will not be with the team due to personal reasons. 

Taking Bradley’s place in the starting lineup will be Evan Turner, getting a start for the eighth time in nine games. This start, however, will be at a different position than the previous seven, where he started for Jae Crowder. 

“Evan has started the better part of the last couple of weeks because Jae has only been here for one game, so I think that keeps him in that role and in that rhythm and then we’ll figure it out from there,” Brad Stevens told reporters before Sunday’s game. 

Crowder will be returning to the starting lineup after missing Friday’s game against the Warriors in Oakland. 

Stevens also explained why Turner has been such a versatile player over the course of the last three weeks. 

“The 2s and 3s do the exact same things for us, so it doesn’t have any impact as far as knowing what’s coming or understanding the plays or whatever the case may be,” Stevens added. “It’s a pretty seamless transition, because he’s going to guard all three spots, which he usually does.”

Turner has averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in his last seven starts. He scored 21 points in Friday’s shocker in Oakland, grabbed five rebounds, and had five assists. He scored 10 points during the final quarter, including a couple of key clutch jumpers. 

There will be others expected to step up their game, also. 

“Terry (Rozier) has played a lot more than he had earlier in the season and he and Marcus (Smart) have given us good things together especially with the ability to make physical plays, defend, rebound, those type of things that we need our guards to do to be the best team that we can be,” said Stevens. “It’s one of those things where we haven’t been a great rebounding team, so playing those guys together helps shore that up a little bit.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Jae Crowder
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