Bradley finds a familiar face in L.A.

Bradley finds a familiar face in L.A.

BOSTON -- Avery Bradley spent seven seasons in Boston, but has found himself jettisoned off to two different teams in the last six months.
 
It’s the business side of things that no amount of time in the league will ever fully prepare you for.
 
But for the ex-Celtic, this latest move in many ways has him coming full circle in reuniting with Clippers boss Doc Rivers, who coached Bradley in Boston during the 6-foot-2 guard’s first four seasons in the NBA. 
 
That familiarity has been a plus for Bradley and can only help him tonight as the Clippers try to continue their winning ways against the Celtics. 
 
“It’s helped out a lot,” Bradley said. 
 
Rivers echoed similar sentiments. 

“It helps, probably for both [of us],” Rivers said.
 
However, one of the more significant differences from the time Bradley played for the Celtics under Rivers, was the offense. 

“We run so much more now,” Rivers said. “That’s who we are; that’s the type of team we have. And on the other end, he’s such a different player than when I coached him. He was so young. We wasted the first year trying to get him as a point guard and realized he’s more of a guard, he’s a heck of a player. His offensive game has opened up so much more, so . . . you don’t get this opportunity very often, when you have a young guy and then you get him back. But it’s been really cool to see the difference and the growth in Avery.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

L.A. REUNION

Former Celtics teammates and Tacoma, Washington natives Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley are back together -- sort of. 
 
Both were part of deals at the trade deadline, with Thomas being shipped out to the Los Angeles Lakers while Bradley now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. 
 
Bradley said he has had conversations with his good friend/former teammate since the two were moved to teams in Los Angeles. 
 
In their conversations, Bradley has tried to remain upbeat with Thomas, who has come under heavy criticism in several circles. The negative vibe surrounding Thomas was, in part, a factor in the Cavs trading him. 
 
“All the negative press, all the bad things people are saying about him . . . I tell him everything happens for a reason and go out there and do what Isaiah Thomas does and that’s playing with confidence and helping his team win games,” Bradley said. 

TERRY ROZIER

One of the bigger influences on Terry Rozier since he has been in the NBA, has been Avery Bradley. When the two were teammates for the Celtics, Rozier would often turn to Bradley for advice as well as on-the-floor tips. Well Rozier has taken that advice and used it to become one of the more valuable role players off the Celtics bench this season. 
 
“This game is all about opportunity and confidence,” Bradley said. “So Terry is getting a great opportunity and he has confidence when he’s out there playing basketball. I’m happy for him. He’s definitely a guy that works hard and works on his game and now it’s paying off.”

TURNOVER A NEW LEAF

Boston is turning the ball over 13.9 times per game which ranks 12th in the NBA. Not bad . . . until you compare it to previous turnover numbers and rankings under Brad Stevens. Since Stevens’ rookie season, when the Celtics’ turnover average (15.3) ranked 27th in the NBA, Boston has consistently been a top-10 or borderline top-10 team in fewest turnovers committed per game. Having lost three of their last four games, Boston has averaged 14.6 turnovers, which ranks 25th in the league during that span. 

MONTREZL HARRELL

One of the more pleasant surprises for the Clippers this season has been the play of Montrezl Harrell, particularly his scoring around the rim on post-up plays. 

The 24-year-old forward has averaged 9.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while playing 15.4 minutes per game. 
 
“He’s a great example, every year you talk about guys accepting their role and trying to be a star in their role. He’s a perfect example,” Rivers said. “Early on he was trying to find his way. And now he knows exactly what he needs to do. He’s been amazing.
 
Rivers added, “One of the things I didn’t know about him, was I didn’t know he was that good on the post. Last year in Houston, I don’t ever remember them throwing post passes to him. I didn’t go into the season thinking about it because I never seen it. You saw it in practice and you’re thinking, are our guys bad post players on defense? And you realize he’s just good on the post.”
 
In his last five games, Harrell has shot 71.1 percent (27-for-38) from the field. 

HORFORD IMPACT

Al Horford doesn’t score nearly as much as some fans (and media members) would like to see. But there’s no denying good things tend to happen for the Celtics when he’s on the floor. This season, Boston has an offensive rating of 106.9 when the five-time All-Star is on the floor. That number drops to 100.0 when’s off the court. The 6.9 differential is tops among all Celtics players this season. 
 

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Rozier takes advantage of opportunity provided by Irving's absence

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Rozier takes advantage of opportunity provided by Irving's absence

Terry Rozier is living on borrowed time. 
 
He knows this.
 
As soon as Kyrie Irving’s right quadriceps bruise heals, possibly as early as tonight against Toronto, Rozier will be back to coming off the Celtics bench. 
 
But in the three games Rozier has been in the starting lineup, the third-year guard has opened the eyes of many to his potential. 
 
That said, how will he handle what’s sure to be a reduced upon Irving’s return?
 
“I’m going to come off the bench and be aggressive,” Rozier said.
 
That’s always been a focus for Rozier. 
 
But it’s different now that he's had a taste of what it’s like to have the responsibility of carrying the team for long stretches, as was the case at times during the last three games without Irving. 
 
 “The man above gave me a chance to start, just to see how aggressive I can be,” said Rozier who averaged 19.7 points, 5.7 assists and 8 rebounds in his three games as a starter. “No matter if I come off the bench or not, I’m going to stay with that aggression that I have.
 
He added: “This was the perfect situation for me. I needed this to happen.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar story lines to watch heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. 


 

STRETCH BIGS

Al Horford extending his range in recent years has made him one of the best stretch bigs in the NBA. Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas is the latest attempting to follow suit as an inside-outside scoring big man. He comes into tonight’s game having made at least one 3-pointer in each of Toronto’s last three games, a first for him. Although a small sample size, Valanciunas is shooting 47.1 percent (16-for-34) from 3-point range this season.

 

 

 

 

 

POINTS OFF TURNOVERS

One of the keys to Toronto’s high-powered offense, is how they’re capable of generating points in transition. They come into tonight’s game averaging 18.4 points per game off turnovers which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Celtics do a good job of getting back defensively, which has limited their opponent’s transition game. Boston allows 15.0 points scored off turnovers per game, which ranks seventh in the league.

POINTS IN THE PAINT

Keeping Toronto’s bigs and penetrating guards out of the paint will be difficult, but far from impossible for the Boston Celtics. Toronto averages 48.4 points in the paint this season which ranks fourth in the NBA. Meanwhile, Boston’s defense has limited teams to 42.8 points in the paint per game which ranks as the eighth-fewest amount of points allowed in the paint per game this season.

DEFENDING THE MID-RANGE SHOT

DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range game is arguably the best in the NBA. But by no means is he the only Raptor player that Boston has to be concerned with tonight. As a team, Toronto is shooting 41.8 percent on mid-range shots according to NBA.com, which ranks eighth in the NBA. The Celtics defensively are one of the best at defending mid-range shots, with opponents shooting just 36.9 percent against them (fourth in the NBA). Not only do the C's do a good job of contesting mid-range shots, but they also have shown the ability to make them at a relatively high clip, too. Boston is shooting 42.9 percent on mid-range shots this year, which ranks fourth in the NBA. And Toronto’s defense, while solid overall, has struggled when it comes to defending mid-range shots. Teams are shooting 41.9 percent against them on mid-range attempts which ranks 25th in the league. 

 

HOME, SWEET HOME VS. ROAD WARRIORS

One of the subplots to tonight’s game involves a Celtics team that’s seemingly at their best on the road, against a Toronto team that protects its home turf better than any team in the NBA. Only Golden State (22-6 away from Oracle Arena) has a better record than the Celtics’ 18-7 mark. Meanwhile, Toronto boasts a league-best 21-4 record at the Air Canada Centre this season.

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For Celtics, comebacks build confidence

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For Celtics, comebacks build confidence

BOSTON -- There’s no team in the NBA that seems to like a good comeback as much as the Boston Celtics.
 
They come into tonight’s game against Philadelphia having rallied from a double-digit deficit to earn a victory nine times -- more than any other team this season.
 
It certainly provides them with a realistic boost of confidence that no deficit is too steep.  Repeatedly rallying to win after falling behind by large margins has created an unspoken confidence among the Celtics that how they start games doesn’t matter as long as they finish off playing the right way.

I asked Jayson Tatum about whether the Celtics have become too comfortable with digging themselves early deficits only to go on a tear and pull off a comeback win.
 
“Probably subconsciously we do,” Tatum said. “But we have to get away from that.”
 
Here are five other story lines to follow heading into tonight’s game between Boston and Philadelphia.
 
 

TATUM’S SHOOTING

Boston’s inability to come back from a large deficit and beat New Orleans wasn’t the only oddity about Tuesday’s loss. It was one of the few games this season when Jayson Tatum didn’t really look to score when on the floor. He had 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting to go with five rebounds, which isn’t a bad night. And while it’s always good to be an efficient scorer, him taking so few shot attempts has to be the exception rather than the rule most nights in order for Boston to be successful. This season the Celtics are 17-4 when he takes 10 or more shots, 17-7 when his shot attempt numbers are in the single digits.
 

TEMPER, TEMPER

The last time these two met, Boston’s Marcus Morris and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons had issues when Simmons set a really hard foul on Morris, a Philadelphia native, who immediately rose to his feet and pushed Simmons. Since then, Simmons had another on-court bruhaha with another Philly native, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors.  Simmons suspects guys are coming after him with a little extra something because he’s a rookie.

"I don't know if they're trying to test me or see how I am on the court, but I won't play around," Simmons said after the Sixers’ win over Toronto.

Morris called the foul Simmons committed against him last week in London a cheap shot.

 “But it’s all right,” Morris told reporters at the time. “I take a lot of cheap shots, too. It’s good to see Philly got some . . . tougher guys. I promise you that won’t happen again. It is what it is.”

ROOKIES ROLLIN’ DOUBLES

Tatum has been among the league’s most consistent scorers among the rookie class. He leads all first-year players with 38 games of scoring in double digits. Simmons, arguably the front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year award, has 35 double-digit scoring games which trails Tatum and Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen (36).

POPULARITY ON THE RISE

The NBA recently released the top-selling NBA jerseys for the fourth quarter (Oct. 2017 – Dec. 2017) of 2017. Tonight’s game features a trio of players who ranked among the top 15. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid came in at No. 6, while fellow Sixer Ben Simmons had the eighth-highest selling jersey. For Boston, Kyrie Irving’s No. 11 jersey came in at No. 12.

JERRYD BAYLESS

With J.J. Redick (leg injury) out, look for Bayless’ role to increase significantly tonight. The former Celtic is averaging 8.5 points per game this season. But in three games against Boston, he has risen his scoring to 10.3 points per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from 3-point range.

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