Celtics

Bradley all business in return to 'second home'

Bradley all business in return to 'second home'

BOSTON – When it comes to honoring former Celtics players, the standard in recent years has been you had to be part of a championship team.

But there was no way the Celtics were going to let Avery Bradley return to the TD Garden for the first time with his new team, the Detroit Pistons, and not in some way acknowledge what he meant to the franchise during his seven seasons.

Prior to him being announced in the Pistons’ starting lineup, there was a video tribute that lasted about 45 seconds, highlighting many of the big plays he made when he donned a Celtics uniform.

“It meant a lot to me,” said Bradley whose Pistons knocked off the Celtics 1118-108 on Monday. “My seven years here I tried to go out there and compete hard and leave everything out on the floor. For them to show that respect back meant a lot to me. This will always be my second home and I love all the fans in Boston.”

MORE:

And they love Bradley, evident by the autograph-seekers near the tunnel entrance towards the locker rooms, many of whom came specifically to see Bradley.

To his credit, he took the time to talk with them before the game, take a pictures, sign autographs … do all the things that he did time and time again when he played for the Celtics.

“These fans are the best,” Bradley told NBC Sports Boston in the middle of signing an autograph prior to tip-off.

But as much as Bradley loves the fans in Boston and the organization, this was not a trip of leisure.

He had business to take care of, namely trying to slow down Boston’s Kyrie Irving.

Irving still managed a near double-double of 18 points and nine assists, but Bradley made him work for it which is evident by Irving shooting just 6-for-16 from the field while turning the ball over six times.

The play of Bradley in many ways mirrored the play of the rest of the Pistons.

“Certainly, Avery on the point of attack on defense was great,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “But I thought they (Pistons) were really, really good. They played with great pace, they played with great purpose. They tried to take the ball out of Kyrie’s hands and they did so pretty successfully. So, you know, they were really good; they’ve been really good most of the year.”

And some of that has to do with Bradley who was traded to Detroit for Marcus Morris in July so that the Celtics would have enough cap space to sign Gordon Hayward to the four-year, $127.8 million contract they came to terms on July 4.

For Bradley, he’s with a team that’s clearly on the rise and is currently second in the East record-wise, to the Celtics.

He came into Monday’s game averaging a career-high 16.8 points which in part has been fueled by his ability to get to the free throw line more this year than he has at any point in his career.

Getting better in some facet of his game has been a given every year with Bradley. This season, we’ve seen him attack defenders off the dribble more and in doing so, has resulted in more free throw attempts.

The Celtics saw his growth first-hand on Monday as Bradley made his first three shots while dishing out three assists in the first quarter alone.

The warm reception from the fans.

The chance to see his former teammates as well as various Celtics staff members.

And the victory.

Yup.

Avery Bradley got all he wanted out of this game.

“It was a great experience for me being able to come back to a place I call my second home, to be able to get the win, but most importantly the way that we played,” Bradley said.

Among the familiar faces he saw was Jaylen Brown who as it turns out, is in the starting lineup at shooting guard – Bradley’s old job with the Celtics.

“I credit a lot of what I’ve been able to do this year, just by watching Avery last year defensively,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “Seeing him again, not even in basketball terms, just off the floor. Avery was somebody I could go to and talk to, so seeing Avery again was good. It looks like he’s in good spirits and he played really well.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Can Celtics plug recent defensive leaks vs. Pacers?

Can Celtics plug recent defensive leaks vs. Pacers?

While the Boston Celtics remain tops in the NBA in defensive efficiency with a rating of 100.7, there’s no escaping the reality that they have had some slippage lately which is why the Celtics are 3-3 in their last six games.

Plugging the team’s defensive leaks won’t get any easier tonight against an Indiana Pacers team that has been among the better offensive clubs in the league this season.

The Pacers come into tonight’s game averaging 108.2 points which ranks seventh in the NBA.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens attributes some of the Celtics’ struggles recently to a lack of consistent effort, a sentiment that’s shared among his players.

“We definitely need to play with better effort more consistently,” Boston’s Semi Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “There’s really no excuse for it. We know we have to better, going forward.”

Especially against a Pacers team that’s playing with a chip on its shoulder this season.

Predicted by many to be among the worst teams in the East after trading away Paul George in July for Victor Oladipo and Domantis Sabonis, Indiana (17-13) comes into tonight’s game in a tie for the fourth-best record in the East.

Boston beat the Pacers 108-98 earlier this season, but Indiana was without Oladipo who was out with a bruised right knee.

His availability tonight and his team-leading 24.4 points per game, will certainly have an impact on tonight’s outcome.

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between Boston and Indiana.

INDY POINTS OFF TURNOVERS

Boston’s transition defense which has been up and down lately, will be challenged early and often by an Indiana team that likes to get out and run especially off of turnovers. They come into tonight’s game averaging 19.0 points off turnovers which ranks fourth in the NBA. Meanwhile, Boston is giving up 14.3 points off turnovers this season which is second in the league. Boston has given up 13.3 points off turnovers in the last six games, but it ranks just ninth in the league in that span.

SABONIS’ LOVE FOR THE CELTICS

Domantas Sabonis’ father Arvydas, spent his entire NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers. But according to Domantas, his father was a huge fan of the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird.

Oh, there’s more.

“His favorite color is green, so he loves it even more,” Domantis said shortly after his workout for the Celtics in 2016. “Just everything about the team, the tradition, the winning … everything.”

ARON BAYNES

Teams with physical, smack-first, ask-questions-later-type centers, have given the Pacers problems this season; specifically, Andre Drummond of Detroit and Steven Adams of Oklahoma City, both of whom gave the Pacers major fits while each finishing with a double-double of 23 points and 13 rebounds. Baynes has provided a much-needed presence around the rim for the Celtics, and has a defensive rating of 94.9 which is tops among all NBA players averaging 15 or more minutes played per game.

INDY’S PULL-UP GAME

There really isn’t any time when the Celtics can relax defensively against a Pacers team that has shown itself to have a diverse set of skills when it comes to scoring. For example, when it comes to pull-up shooting, they rank among the league’s best in several categories. According to NBA.com/stats, they are shooting a league-best 42.8 percent on pull-up shots which generates 21.9 points per game which ranks fourth in the league.

JAYSON TATUM

The Celtics have won three of their last five games, with each win followed by a loss in that span. There are lots of factors, but one that jumps out is the scoring of Jayson Tatum. In the two losses, he scored four and seven points, respectively. But in the three wins, the 19-year-old reached double figures in each game, scoring at least 11 points. For the season, he’s averaging 14.4 points while shooting 53.9 percent on 3’s and 53 percent from the field when the Celtics win. In losses, his scoring drops to 11.6 points per game while shooting 39.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent on 3’s.

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers

stream-celtics-pacers.jpg

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pacers in Indiana. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don't make

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE