Celtics

Celtics

On Sunday, Kings point guard Rajon Rondo called his former teammate Avery Bradley one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.

We looked at the numbers, and sure enough Rondo was right - not that we didn’t already know this.

Rondo isn’t the only player who thinks this way. Plenty of NBA players cringe at the thought of going up against Bradley.

That’s why what happened Tuesday night in Milwaukee with one second left on the game clock was such a surprise.

Coming out of a timeout in a tie game, the Bucks were looking to inbound the ball and get a shot off to win at the buzzer.

But when the ball was inbounded to Khris Middleton, he couldn’t get that shot off . . . because Bradley reached in and fouled him.

It was the right call. Bradley got Middleton on his arm. The question, though, is why? The right play would have been to stand there with your hands up to get in the way. But to reach in? Bradley is a lot smarter than that.

“Just fouled him,” Stevens told reporters of what happened. “I thought we had it well covered. Just one of those instinctual things and it didn’t go our way.”

Middleton hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second one with 0.6 remaining in the game and the Celtics out of timeouts. Jae Crowder’s desperation heave wasn’t close, and the Celtics lost, 112-111.

Bradley, who told reporters he was “just trying to make a good defensive play,” was surprisingly even-keeled after the game.

“Last play I think I was just a little too aggressive,” Bradley said. “The ref made a great call and he knocked down a big free throw. All credit to them. Me personally, I don’t think it’s that one play that determined the game but they made big shots when they needed to.

Bradley is right about that. The game was lost in the third quarter when the Bucks outscored the Celtics, 40-20. And that’s what Stevens told his team after the one-point loss.

“Said to everybody in the room, ‘Listen, we got beat in the end of the second, the whole third quarter, start of the fourth, that’s where we lost that game. And we have a game tomorrow.’ You gotta be able to bounce back. He’s a tough-minded kid. He’ll be alright.”

Stevens clearly wasn’t blaming Bradley for the loss, and neither were his teammates who know how important Bradley has been to their recent success.

“Obviously that’s not what lost the game,” Evan Turner told reporters. “That’s what everybody remembers but we dug ourselves in a hole. Avery has come up for us big defensively numerous times on numerous different occasions, so keep your head up, we’re all a team, people make mistakes, and you support your teammate no matter what. He’s going to make 100 great defensive plays every miscue he may have defensively. That was a tough situation and that’s not what lost us the game, you know? So it’s all good.”

“He just won us a game a couple games ago, too, a couple days ago,” Crowder said. “So we’re going to ride with our guys. His mistake is everyone’s mistake . . . we’re going to pat him on the back and get ready for tomorrow.”