BOSTON – When it comes to gauging Avery Bradley’s impact on the Boston Celtics, there’s a ton of analytics numbers you can uncover that will illustrate his value.
He’s an elite defensive player who was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First team.
And offensively, we’ve witnessed his improvement every year he has been in the NBA to where he has gone from being a cutter scoring primarily on lay-ups, to a knock-down shooter from all points on the floor.
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But on Friday against Charlotte, it was Bradley’s hustle for a loose ball – a statistic you seldom hear talked about when it comes to keys to success - that ultimately swung the game’s momentum in Boston’s favor as the Celtics pulled away for a 96-88 win.
Bradley, who came into the game leading the team in loose balls recovered with 28, picked one up in the third quarter following a Jonas Jerebko steal that he immediately cashed in for a 3-pointer that cut Charlotte’s lead to 60-57.
Boston went on to score seven of the game’s next nine points to go ahead, 64-62.
So while fans might praise the high scoring of Isaiah Thomas (he had a game-high 26 points after missing the previous four games with a right groin injury) or the inside dominance of Al Horford (he scored eight of his 18 points in the third).
But the Celtics know as important as those plays were to their win, hustle plays like the loose ball that Bradley tracked down in front of their bench are often what separates winning from losing.
“We always say the game honors those plays,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Bradley’s shot was part of an 18-4 run by Boston which wiped out Charlotte’s lead which peaked at 12.
“That was a big play by Avery, the save and the three,” Boston’s Terry Rozier told CSNNE.com. “We fed off of that and kept rolling with it.”
And for a Celtics team that’s still trying to find its identity, Bradley’s play was an example of just how important great effort can be when it comes to making plays that lead to winning games.
“That’s what we have to be; that’s what the Celtics are all about and that is how we are supposed to play,” said Boston big man Al Horford who had 18 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots. “We need to have more of those plays and be more consistent with it.”