BOSTON – For most of this season, Avery Bradley has been praised for how his game offensively continues to expand.
But in Tuesday’s 113-103 win over Memphis, the 6-foot-2 guard a hot tub time machine kind-of-game, reverting to scoring on a bevy of cuts to the basket – something he did with regularity as a rookie.
Bradley will look to have similar success in Thursday night’s matchup against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Boston’s win on Tuesday, Bradley led the Celtics with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field. And of his 10 made baskets, four of them came on cuts to the rim, three on lay-ups, two on jumpers of 15 feet or longer, and one via a dunk.
Bradley’s versatility as a scorer was clearly on display, but his ability to cut and finish stood out.
“Throughout the game I saw I had opportunities to cut, either for myself or for my teammates to get open,” Bradley said.
Tilting towards Bradley at times created more space for his teammates to shoot. And when the defense didn’t respond to his quick moves to the basket, he made them pay by finishing at the rim.
The pick-your-poison scenario that Bradley’s non-stop motion without the ball creates, was indeed one of the keys to Boston emerging with the team’s sixth win in the last seven games.
“We just read the game. We know they were overplaying it the first few minutes of the game,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “So when I did attack the basket, guys were adjusting and made the right play and that was back-cutting their guy and Avery does it a lot; he’s really good at that. I found him a few times.”
Not only was Bradley but he was also finding teammates doing the same and rewarded them like the first quarter dunk by Amir Johnson that came about on Bradley penetrating in the lane, drawing the defense to him and then dished off to Johnson for the flush.
But Bradley made a living – a good one, too – by simply running along the baseline and making himself available for teammate to find for easy baskets.
Shortly after the Celtics drafted him with the 19th overall pick in 2010, his defensive acumen was apparent. But finding his way offensively was not easy when you consider the Celtics had a trio of future Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in addition to an all-star point guard in Rajon Rondo.
So when Bradley did score, he did it by using his speed along the baseline on cuts to the basket.
Since then, he has evolved from a corner 3-point shooter, to a mid-range shooter with 3-point range, to now being an improved ball-handler who can score in just about every way imaginable for the Celtics.
So with such a wide array of offensive tools at his disposal, he reminded us all on Tuesday of origins of his offensive game that’s so well-rounded now.
“That’s what I tried to do,” Bradley, averaging a career-best 17.8 points per game, said about his successful cuts to the basket against the Grizzlies. “I missed a few lay-ups, got a little upset at myself. I knew if I continued to do it the entire game, it would get other guys shots.”
And those shots along with Bradley’s lay-ups, were keys to the Celtics continuing along their winning ways and for that night at least, proving they were a cut above the competition.