Celtics

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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Five takeaways: When Celtics fall, they can't get up

Five takeaways: When Celtics fall, they can't get up

BOSTON -- All season the Celtics have seemingly been digging basketball graves for themselves, only to rise up and bury their foes.

It worked in the regular season.

In the playoffs?

Not so much.

Those huge deficits early in games have been a big problem for Boston, to the point where it has to be among the chief concerns for the Celtics heading into a pivotal Game 5 matchup on Wednesday.

Cleveland’s 111-102 Game 4 win, which evened the series at two games apiece, was due in large part to the Celtics falling 19 points behind in the first half.

To get down big early provides plenty of time for a comeback, of course. But it also requires a significant amount of energy, effort and timely breaks. And on the road? Against a LeBron James-led team?

That’s not likely to happen.

“We just dug ourselves in a hole in the first half,” said Jaylen Brown. “We came back from 15 and I think the closest we got it to was maybe seven or six. We fought. We played a better game than last time.”

Brown, who had a team-high 25 points in the Game 4 loss, was referring to Boston’s 116-86 beatdown in Game 3.

Certainly disappointed they didn’t get one or both games in Cleveland, coach Brad Stevens anticipated this series would be filled with ups and downs for both teams.

“Anybody that didn’t think this was going to be tough . . . I mean, everything is tough,” Stevens said. “In this deal, it’s a blast to have to grit your teeth, get up off the mat and go after it again. That’s part of it. That’s what makes these guys on both sides special.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 111-102 Game 4 loss.

FIRST QUARTER ROAD WOES

Game 4 was the latest example in the Celtics-get-off-to-bad-starts-on-the-road narrative. They scored just 18 points on 7-for-26 shooting (26.9 percent) in the first quarter, when they missed six of their seven 3-point attemots. Getting off to a better start will go far in Boston’s attempts at regaining the series lead on Wednesday.

TERRY ROZIER

He seems to have exorcised some basketball road demons with a 16-point, 11-assist, 0-turnover performance in Game 4. But Cleveland’s ability to get him switched out on guarding a bigger frontcourt player is a problem. The Celtics has to become more creative scheme-wise to avoid their smallest starter (Rozier) consistently being paired with players several inches taller and several pounds heavier. Part of the problem is Rozier who hasn’t been fighting through those screens as hard he is capable of. It may result in an extra foul or two for Rozier, but two games away from a trip to the NBA Finals? Whatever sacrifice is required, you make it.

JAYSON TATUM

While his numbers in the Eastern Conference Finals have been decent, Tatum hasn't had anything close to the impact against the Cavs that he had in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The biggest missing ingredient is his 3-point shooting. He's averaging 2.5 attempts from 3-point range in this series, but only took two attempts total in Games 3 and 4 -- and missed them both. The Cavs have done a better job defensively, but there are seemingly more possessions in which he’s passing up a good 3-point look to instead attack a team defense whose strength lies in ability to contest shots at the rim. Don’t be surprised to see Tatum freed up more for 3’s in Game 5.

REBOUNDING

The Celtics aren’t expected to win the rebounding fight, but they at least have to keep it closer than they did in Games 3 and 4. In Game 4, Cleveland was a plus-10 (47-37) on the boards, which heavily factored into their decisive 16-7 advantage in second-chance points. Closing this gap will pivotal to Boston’s chances at success on Wednesday.

CELTICS OFFENSE

There’s a lot of talk about Boston’s defense and how it needs to improve going forward. But the Celtics have to do a better job offensively as well; specifically, they need to create more open or lightly contested shot attempts. Cleveland has contested more than 75 percent of Boston’s shot attempts in each of the last two games, compared to contesting less than 70 percent in the first two. Figuring out how to free up more shooters has to be a priority for the Celtics heading into Game 5.

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Jayson Tatum obviously named to All-Rookie first team

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File Photo

Jayson Tatum obviously named to All-Rookie first team

Jayson Tatum was obviously named to the NBA All-Rookie first team, joining fellow great rookie Donovan Mitchell, second-year player Ben Simmons, the good Lakers rookie (not Lonzo Ball) and an actually amazing Chicago Bulls player. 

Tatum, who started all season for the Celtics, becomes the first Celtic since fellow future Hall-of-Famer Paul Pierce to earn first-team rookie honors. He would have been a unanimous choice for the first team were it not for one insane person who gave him a second-team vote, seemingly in favor of Josh Jackson. 

Tatum and Lauri Markkanen (the awesome Bulls player) were the only top-10 picks in the 2017 draft selected to the first team. Tatum is also the only lottery pick still in the NBA playoffs. He's averaging 18 points a game in the postseason. Markelle Fultz did not play at all during the Celtics' five-game series victory over the 76ers, who could have taken Tatum but took Fultz instead.