Celtics

Celtics

BOSTON - With 1:40 left in the game, Avery Bradley made his move past Kawhi Leonard up around the three-point line, drove into the paint, rose up a few feet outside of the circle, and threw down a ferocious dunk over LaMarcus Aldridge.

It sent the TD Garden into a frenzy and cut the Spurs lead to five points.

Where in the world did that dunk come from?

"I've just been trying to tell myself to be more aggressive," Bradley said. "Go to the basket stronger. When I broke my ankle it's always in the back of my head that I can go and re-injure myself. I just have to go out there and play basketball and not think."

Bradley has had his fair share of ankle injuries over his career, but he's said on multiple occasions how he's working past the mental aspect of those injuries.

He's been known to be a defensive guard first in his years in the NBA, but as he's grown up has taken on a bigger role offensively. This year, he'll be asked to do even more than ever.

On Sunday, despite the Celtics' 95-87 loss, he proved that he could at least shoulder some of the load.

Bradley shot 7-for-18 for a team-high 18 points though he only went 1-for-4 from three-point range, which is something he's been working on. But 14 of those points came in a second half that actually saw the Celtics outscore the Spurs by five points.

And Bradley wasn't matched against some slouch either. Leonard is one of the best defenders in the NBA and actually the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. For that reason, Bradley made some adjustment in the way he attacked Leonard on offense.

"It was smart in driving Leonard because it's hard to get a jump shot off against that guy and did some good things," Brad Stevens said.

 

He had another nice drive to the hoop in the third quarter. Using a screen by David Lee, Bradley lost Danny Green and then split Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard on his way to the hoop, finishing over Tony Parker.

Isaiah Thomas has known Bradley since the two were little kids. He was not surprised to see Bradley throw down a dunk like the one on Sunday because he's seen him do it before. Thomas joked that he gets mad when Bradley goes up for a lay up because he knows he's capable of dunking that way. Regardless, Thomas is seeing the improvement in Bradley's offensive game.

"He's just getting better each and every day each and every game," Thomas said. "He's letting the game come to him. He's becoming a more complete player. It's because of his hard work. He's always in the gym working and willing to learn. He's very coachable and he's a great guy. I'm glad for his success. He showed a lot today hitting threes, hitting mid-range, and even attacking the hoop.

Bradley left the game a little early on Sunday after catching a finger on another player's jersey. It's swollen, but it doesn't seem like a big concern.

And hopefully it won't make him think twice about jamming his finger on the rim the next time he decides to go up for another dunk.

"A lot of people forget that used to be me," Bradley said of his dunk. "I just have to continue to take what the defense gives me and be aggressive."