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Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever seen’ defense like Avery Bradley’s 03.14.13 at 12:04 pm ET
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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers

Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday to discuss Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s scoring milestones, the Heat’s winning streak and other NBA topics.

In Wednesday night’s 112-88 Celtics win over the Raptors, Garnett passed Jerry West for 15th on the NBA all-time scoring list, while Pierce passed Charles Barkley to moved into 20th place.

“It’s really cool when you hear names like Jerry West,” Rivers said. “Kevin Garnett just passed the NBA logo, and Paul passes Charles Barkley. So when you hear names like that, you know how lucky you are as a coach that you’re coaching guys like that.”

After Garnett’s milestone, he received a thunderous ovation from the TD Garden crowd, and he acknowledged the reception for a few moments. While that might not be a typical thing for Garnett to do, Rivers said that the future Hall-of-Famer is realizing just how close his career is to being over.

“I do think over this year especially, I think he understands that he has how many years left, and we don’t know that,” Rivers said. “But I do think he’s starting to acknowledge a lot of that and appreciate it, and soak it in, and I’m happy he’s doing that.”

The C’s victory Wednesday came after perhaps their worst loss of the season Tuesday. They fell on the road to the lowly Bobcats, 100-74, albeit without Pierce. Similar to how Rivers gave Garnett a game off recently, he decided to do the same with the captain Tuessday.

“Paul was banged up a little bit in the Oklahoma game,” Rivers said. “I thought just the Oklahoma travel, that was a very difficult trip. When you travel basically four hours, get off a plane and play the next day at 12 noon. … That was a difficult game for us.

“You’re thinking about two things. You want to win every game now. But you also want to be fresh and right when the playoffs start. To do that, with Kevin especially, and then maybe Paul, and even JET [Jason Terry], we have to consider doing it.”

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Irish Coffee: Where Avery Bradley adds a jump shot 03.06.13 at 10:45 am ET
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While everyone’s been rightfully lauding Avery Bradley‘s defense, he’s added a mid-range game.

In Tuesday’s 109-101 victory against the 76ers, the Celtics guard drained 4-of-5 long jumpers (16-23 feet). Heck, he even attempted a couple from 10-15 feet, where he hadn’t made a shot in more than a month. It’s almost as if he previously had devastating shoulder injuries, and he’s only now fully recovering. Oh, wait, he did. And he is.

“He’s starting to make the little pull-up jump shot,” C’s coach Doc Rivers told reporters in the postgame. “He’s been making the 3′s for the most part. He keeps shooting them, and we want him to, but I’m really happy with his pull-up off the dribble. That’s a big shot for us later, and he’s starting to make that. And that’s big.”

The 3-pointers part is debatable, since Bradley’s steadily been shooting around 31 percent from there this season after making 41 percent a year ago. His corner 3-point shooting has also dipped from 56 percent last season to 34 percent this winter. But Bradley’s honing a new weapon for his offensive arsenal: the long jumper.

Oh, great, another jump shooter on the Celtics, you say. Well, consider this: Bradley’s making 51 percent of his long jumpers over the past 12 games on an average of 3.6 attempts. That’s a marked improvement from his first 16 games, when he shot 39 percent on 2.3 attempts during a physical and mental adjustment period upon his return.

Because defenders must now respect Bradley’s newfound jump shot (see video), he’s also getting to the rim twice as often over the past 12 games, converting 60 percent of his 3.8 shots per game within three feet. His scoring numbers are up 50 percent in that same stretch, which has ripple effects throughout the Celtics roster.

“He’s confident,” added Rivers. “I don’t think he ever lost it. He was questioning it at times.

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Kevin Garnett: Avery Bradley ‘is everything to our defense’ 03.05.13 at 10:17 am ET
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Avery Bradley has been a force defensively this season for the Celtics. (AP)

Avery Bradley has been a force defensively this season for the Celtics. (AP)

WALTHAM — If there’s one player on the Celtics to trust when it comes to talking leadership and intensity on defense it’s Kevin Garnett. And when he says Avery Bradley is the most important player in the team’s complex defensive scheme, you can’t help but listen up.

“He is everything to our defense,” Garnett said of Bradley on Monday before practice. “I think he’s the anchor. He’s the true inspiration of what it is. He gets up on the ball, 95, 90 percent of the time. Look at any other guard in the league; no one in the league is playing defense like he is. He’s just tenacious. He’s the silent leader and it’s by example.”

How big has Bradley been?

Last Friday, going up against Stephen Curry, the Celtics trusted him to go man-to-man and disrupt one of the most explosive players in the league. When he picked up his fifth foul with eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Celtics had to switch to a zone. With Bradley back since early January, the Celtics have gone from 25th in the league in defense to ninth, allowing just 95.9 points per game. They have allowed 100 points just six times since. Three of those six went overtime, including the triple-overtime game against Denver on Feb. 10 and another game he missed altogether.

Our Ben Rohrbach made the case for Bradley landing on the NBA All-Defensive team, which at this point seems like a no-brainer.

Reminded that Bradley has occasionally calmed coach Doc Rivers down this season, Garnett said that it’s been Rivers who has been the steadying force in Bradley development this season, especially as a court leader with Rajon Rondo out injured.

“I think it’s the other way around, although he isn’t really loud, he’s very vibrant,” Garnett said. “I don’t think he’s 100 percent, which is scary. I think he’s still working through some things with his past injuries but he’s playing hard and he’s giving us everything he has when he’s on the floor.”

Rivers isn’t asking Bradley to be vocal on the floor, since his play is speaking volumes.

“I think his play speaks for it,” Rivers said. “He has to call plays out and stuff like that. I think he’s verbal, defensively, in what we do. But that’s not anything I’m looking for right now from him. I just want him to keep playing, and playing hard. He plays so hard, he probably can’t speak half the time because he’s exhausted. I just like what he’s doing.”

Rivers said Bradley has been impressive this season after having a pair of shoulder surgeries in the offseason.

“I think he’s 100 percent, leg-wise,” Rivers said. “He’s been 100 percent. I guess if there’s any good thing about having a shoulder [injury], you can still use your legs, conditioning-wise. You can do all the running. As far as his shoulders, I can’t answer that. I don’t know. I would say he would not be 100 percent until next year with that.

With any surgery, especially when you have two, [takes time]. One of the officials in the last game walked up to me and asked, ‘Avery have both shoulders done?’ I said, yeah. He said, ‘Man, I had one done, I was out six months and I still feel bad.’ And I said, ‘That’s why you’re an official.’ I did get three bad calls after that.”

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Avery Bradley: ‘I want to shut down everybody’ 03.02.13 at 1:27 am ET
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After torching the Knicks for 54 points on Wednesday night, Warriors guard Stephen Curry got off just two field goal attempts against Celtics defensive wunderkind Avery Bradley.

“He’s a very good player,” said Bradley. “I just tried to make everything hard on him tonight and tire him down.”

In the opening 10:18, Curry missed his only shot and turned the ball over twice. Meanwhile, the Celtics established a 26-15 lead and never trailed again in their 94-86 victory.

“I thought Avery set the tone for us early,” said Kevin Garnett. “Any time you’ve got a guy who’s coming off scoring a lot of points, our backcourt, our guards, they were ready for tonight’s challenge, and Avery set the tone.”

Curry scored 25 points on the night but finished just 6-of-22 from the floor.

“I thought Avery did a good job of wearing out Curry,” added Celtics captain Paul Pierce.

Yet, Bradley claimed his approach on Friday is no different than any other night. Just a different opponent.

“I want to shut down everybody every single night. If you notice, every game I play the same way. Every single game on the defensive end. That’s just my mindset. That’s how I play. That’s how I always play my whole life.”

Really? There’s not even a little part of Bradley that gets up for a guy like Curry coming off 54 points?

“I play the same every single game,” he said. “I play as hard as I can when I’m out there on both ends of the court.”

Bradley picked up his fourth and fifth personal fouls in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Thankfully, Courtney Lee picked up where his fellow “pitbull” left off, because Bradley thought he only had three fouls.

“You’ve got to just keep playing,” he said. “I got in some foul trouble, but I fought through it and just kept trying to make everything hard on him despite the calls. … I just tried to continue to be aggressive on the defensive end. I know that’s what my team needed me to do. If I fouled out the game, I was going to be fine with that, because I was just going to play as hard as I can. That’s my goal going into the game.”

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Stephen Curry, Tom Brady and the NBA All-Defensive power of Avery Bradley 02.28.13 at 6:33 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers and captain Paul Pierce both had high praise for Avery Bradley before Thursday’s practice. The C’s guard will have the unenviable task Friday of guarding Warriors counterpart Stephen Curry, who scored 54 points against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

  • Pierce: “I think every great team needs a player like that, especially a great defensive team. With so many great scorers in this league and great individual play, you need that one guy who can go out there and kind of slow those types of guys down. We have that in Avery Bradley. He’s shown a willingness to sacrifice so much. I believe he can give us a lot more defensively, but he’s so great on the defensive end that it has an impact on this whole team. You don’t have to double as much, you don’t have to give as much help when you’ve got a guy like that who can defend at a high level. In my eyes, he’s probably the best on-the-ball defender in the NBA. I’d be very surprised if he didn’t make the All-Defensive Team.”
  • Rivers: “They’re picking him now. They’re getting him off of [his assignments], and that’s what they should do, but it’s nice to have a guy that can pressure the ball. I don’t know if Avery’s going to shut down everyone, but I know he’s going to give you the attempt to pressure, and ball pressure is important. I just use a football analogy: If you didn’t blitz Tom Brady and you just let him sit back there all day, he’s going to pick you apart. It’s the same in basketball. If you let the passers just sit there with no pressure, they’re going to pick you apart. And Avery is our blitzer.”

For more on the NBA All-Defensive case for Bradley, read this column.

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Doc Rivers on D&C: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett will be ‘great when the playoffs start’ at 11:26 am ET
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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers

Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to talk about Stephen Curry‘s performance vs. the Knicks, the big win on Monday against the Jazz and more Celtics news.

The Celtics are on track to make their sixth straight postseason appearance, and Rivers is confident aging veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will be playing well once they get there.

“I think they’ll be great when the playoffs start,” Rivers said. “I think they’ll be better because there’s more rest, and our key is to get them there fresh.

“I thought that it may have had something to do with Danny [Ainge] not making a trade or doing a trade. I just don’t think anything was out there that appealed to him.”

Curry, Golden State’s sharpshooting guard, dropped 54 points against the Knicks on Wednesday night, albeit in a 109-105 Warriors loss. The 54 points are a season-high for the NBA this season.

“That was special to watch,” Rivers said, adding: “Some of the shots he was making were spectacular. … The way he shot the ball and the shots he got — he’s just a great shooter. He’s the best shooter in our league.”

Added Rivers: “When a guy gets in a zone like that, it’s just hard. It’s so easy to say, ‘Deny him,’ but he’s a point guard, so he always has the ball in his hands for the most part. That’s what makes it so difficult. Everyone else who are off the ball, you have a better chance. But a guy with the ball, in that zone, that’s hard.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘Have to give [Rajon Rondo] room to do what he wants’ during injury 01.30.13 at 7:42 pm ET
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Doc Rivers believes his team is equipped to handle life without Rajon Rondo.

The first test for the Celtics is handling a Kings team that beat them like a drum in the fourth quarter of a 118-96 loss in Sacramento.

“Not really, I’d rather have him,” Rivers said when asked if coaching without his top point guard represents a unique opportunity. “But the coach in me and the players understand they don’t have him. It’s another challenge and hopefully, we’re up for it.”

Will Rondo be around the team before and after his upcoming ACL surgery?

“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I don’t ever ask. I don’t really care. I want him to do what he needs to do. It’s very hard to come to every game. I had that same injury. There are days you want to be around the guys and there are days you don’t. I think you have to give him room to do what he wants.”

Apparently, what Rondo wants right now is the very best advice before going ahead with right knee reconstruction. According to injury expert Will Carroll, Rondo is consulting the “Big 3″ of knee doctors, including Neal ElAttrache, James Andrews and Walt Lowe. ElAttrache, you’ll recall, did the ACL reconstruct for Tom Brady in 2008.

Rivers also said one of the advantages of having Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley in the backcourt together is that they’re a more physical combo than Rondo and Bradley.

As for the Kings, Wednesday represented a chance at redemption against DeMarcus Cousins, the 22-year-old who went off for a triple-double on Dec. 30.

“He’s not athletic but he’s very [smart] and instinctive,” Rivers said in a moment of pre-game frankness.

As for the Kings, who entered Wednesday 17-29, Rivers had this assessment.

“They’re a talented, young team and there are nights when they get all activated and all together as a group and they’re really good.”

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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