Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Avery Bradley sets the tone for Celtics vs. Bulls

Stars, studs and duds: Avery Bradley sets the tone for Celtics vs. Bulls

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics play their best defensive game of the season, shutting down the Chicago Bulls 100-80 in a game that for most of the night wasn’t even that close.

It’s also the first game since suffering a right Achilles injury in January was Avery Bradley playing in a game with no minutes restriction.

Coincidence?

Probably not.

Reflecting on Boston’s blowout win, there was no denying that Bradley’s play defensively set the tone in what was a lopsided affair from the first few minutes following the tip-off until the final horn sounded.

“He makes our defense so much better,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “It’s contagious. Jae (Crowder) plays at a high level, (Marcus) Smart and it just goes down the list.”

For Bradley, to not have any minutes restriction allowed him to be free and not worry about anything other than playing the game.

“I’m happy it’s finally done,” Bradley said. “Happy it’s behind me and now it’s time for me to just focus on the game and go out there and play as hard as I can and continue to try to find a rhythm so I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”

As well as Bradley played, the key in Sunday’s victory was the contributions made by just about every Celtic who stepped on the floor, defensively.

“To me that’s my vision for this team to go out and play hard on the defensive end every single night,” Bradley said. “We know if we play that way we have a chance every single game even if we aren’t making shots or making mistakes. Whenever the entire team is playing with that much energy on the defensive end, good things happen and that’s what happened tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.

 

STARS

Amir Johnson

His numbers – two points, four rebounds and two blocked shots – don’t do much in terms of moving the needle publicly. But Celtics players and head coach Brad Stevens pointed out how important Johnson’s rim-protection and help-side defense was in setting the tone for what was arguably Boston’s best defensive showing this season.

Isaiah Thomas

He did his damage in the first three quarters which was good enough to lead all scorers with 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting two assists and three steals.

Avery Bradley

He reminded us all why he’s considered one of the league’s best two-way players. In addition to playing some suffocating defense against Chicago’s perimeter players, Bradley also had 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six rebounds three steals and a blocked shot.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

Lots of good things happened all game with Horford on the floor. He finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocked shots.

Kelly Olynyk

The Celtics had a few players deliver nice bounce-back performances on Sunday, Olynyk included. He had a near double-double of 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting, with nine rebounds.

 

DUDS

Dwyane Wade

Scoring just eight points in nearly 26 minutes of court time was bad enough. Adding to what was a horrible night for Wade was the fact that the Bulls were a minus-37 when he was on the floor which ranks among the worst plus-minuses in a single game this season.

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

MORE:

Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

MORE:

And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE