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You folks know me-always looking for something positive. Avery Bradley was the only bright spot during last night’s drubbing at the hands of the TWolves. He eclipsed his point total from the Knicks game in the 1st quarter last night, and seemed to finally be getting back into some type of rhythm on offense: Chris Forsberg– Bradley Shooting Way Out Of Slump
So if you’re looking for one silver lining to help forget how Nikolva Pekovic shredded Boston’s interior defense Monday night, scoring 21 of his game-high 29 points in the first half, remember that Avery Bradleyscored a team-high 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting and showed encouraging signs of emerging from his offensive funk.
Once dubbed the Celtics’ savior for spearheading the team’s turnaround with his defensive efforts, Bradley is now relegated to the second most popular athlete in town with the surname Bradley (nice debut, JBJ). He’s slumped badly over the last three weeks, averaging 7.6 points while shooting 32.3 percent from the field (43 of 133) and 30.8 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (8 of 26).
You could see from early on last night that Doc was eager to get Avery back on track. He is so important to this team, and without Pierce & Garnett last night, someone was going to have to step up-big time. It wasn’t enough obviously, but at least “The Savior” seems to be getting back some of his mojo. Running the first play for him last night seemed to really help.
So determined to pull Bradley from his slump, the Celtics have designed their first offensive play of the game to go through him — a rarity — in recent outings. Coming off a Chris Wilcoxscreen on the left wing on Monday night, Bradley drilled a 19-foot jumper 17 seconds in and it sure seemed to light a wet fuse.
Bradley finished 8-of-14 shooting (57.1 percent) with 19 points — his first double-digit scoring output since the Bobcats visited on March 16 — to go along with two assists over 30:19.
“I think that’s five games in a row we’ve run the first play for him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “And finally he came up with a jumper. I just really believe he needed it to go in, that shot. I told him after the game, his arc was back on his shot, it wasn’t flat. So that was good to see. I think that will make him a better defender too; he’ll be able to relax.”
It’s definitely the offense that needs the most work. There’s no doubt his defense has been solid, but he’s been very inconsistent on the other side of the ball. We’ve seen less attacking and slashing and more missed mid-range jumpers. Granted, a lot of that is probably Zero Tolerance getting his upper-body strength back where he feels comfortable. Doc knows he will need AB to be a solid contributor if the C’s want any realistic shot at having a playoff run longer than 1 round.
Bradley’s offense, however, has been sporadic at best this season. According to Synergy Sports data, he averages 0.8 points per play, which ranks in just the 23rd percentile. Even as he incorporates an emerging corner 3-pointer to his arsenal, he’s still only shot 34.1 percent from that spot and he’s struggled to finish at the rim (a potential byproduct of building back his upper body strength after enduring surgery to each shoulder).
Bradley, a third-year guard, is shooting 42.4 percent from the midrange and that’s where six of his eight field goals came from on Monday. Only one other time this season has Bradley had more than eight field goals in a game (10 versus Philadelphia on March 5).
The Celtics absolutely need Bradley firing on all cylinders at both ends of the floor when the playoffs arrive. Boston knows what it’s going to get out of veterans Pierce and Garnett, and there’s hope that ring-wearing veteran Jason Terry will further elevate his game. But Jeff Green and Bradley are the X-factors.
Bradley can single-handedly change the complexion of the game with his defense. Boston knows that it’s likely he’ll be fine at the end of the court when it matters most. But the Celtics need Bradley’s offense as well.
And they’ll do whatever it takes to get him going, even if it means eating some losses.
Related links: Boston Herald-Avery Bradley Breaks Out
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