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Bradley returns to practice for Celtics

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Bradley returns to practice for Celtics

CHICAGO When the Boston Celtics arrived at the United Center for today's practice, Avery Bradley was one of the first to enter the court area.

That's not surprising when you consider he was just moments away from practicing -- something he has not done in nearly six months.

It's still too soon to say when he will play again, but Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told CSNNE.com recently that he anticipates Bradley's return to games being sometime in early January.

And Doc Rivers said on Monday that when Bradley does return, it will most likely be as a starter with Courtney Lee returning to the role of being a key perimeter reserve along with Jason Terry.

"That's what he was when he left," Rivers said. "But he'll have to earn that and get it. But I just think on paper, it looks better. But you have to wait and see once he gets back."

The last thing Bradley is thinking about right now is whether he will start or come off the bench. Knowing he's one step closer to actually playing in a game is all he's concerned about.

"I'm just excited," said Bradley who has been recovering this season from surgery to both of his shoulders. "Hopefully there are no setbacks and I have a good practice today."

Bradley has gradually been building up to this day.

First there was the time spent letting his body heal from the surgeries to both shoulders. After that came a slow but steady process of strengthening the muscles just so he could function normally.

From there, he went about trying to get the shoulders and the rest of his body back into basketball shape with the last few weeks spent prepping for today -- his first practice.

Bradley has been playing one-on-one with former Celtic Keyon Dooling who has since been hired by the C's as a player development coach. Bradley has also had coaches set screens on him which has forced him to fight through the screens.

"I've been working on game situation things," Bradley said.

His return to practice can only be a positive for a Celtics team that could use a bit of good news after what has been a rougher-than-expected start to the season.

Once considered on the short list of title contenders, the Celtics (12-11) have been wallowing in a cesspool of mediocrity all season.

While there's no argument among the C's and those throughout the NBA that Bradley's return will help, Rivers isn't about to put the team's fate moving forward solely on the surgically repaired shoulders of Bradley.

"We have to be a better defensive team. Avery is going to help us," Rivers said. "But he ain't the savior. But he absolutely is going to take a lot of pressure off of guys."

And he'll do that by doing what he does as good as any guard in the NBA -- putting pressure on opponents.

Bradley's impact will indeed have a domino effect on several players, and not all of them guards either.

Because he's such a strong on-the-ball defender, that will likely mean less double-teaming will be needed from the bigs which gives them a better chance of holding their own on the boards, and playing better interior defense.

"It's huge to have those type of guys on your team," Boston power forward Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com. "That's what Doc (Rivers) means when he says, 'give yourself up for the team.' There's going to be a lot of guys who are just numbers guys. And then there's guys who may not have great numbers but just as valuable as guys with numbers. It's going to be great having Avery back."

Indeed, Bradley provides the kind of intangibles that reminds Rivers of what former Celtic Kendrick Perkins meant to the C's when he was a member of the Green team.

"Completely different players," Rivers said. "But there are certain guys that transcend their numbers with their team. Avery does that; Kevin Garnett does that. He has numbers, but he really does. Garnett can have average numbers and his impact on the game is undeniable. Avery does that as well."

First-year Celtic Jason Terry has known Bradley for years with both hailing from the Seattle-Tacoma area in Washington. Bradley at one point played for the AAU team of Terry's father.

"I seen right away he had some talent, but he was a raw talent," Terry told CSNNE.com. "But immediately going into his senior year I could see the difference. He began to stand out."

Terry recalls Bradley playing full court defense at a basketball camp for high school All-Americans -- something that rarely happens.

"That spoke volumes to the kind of player he was developing into," Terry said.

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

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Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

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'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

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