Celtics

'No hard feelings' for Avery Bradley, who's enjoying life in Detroit

'No hard feelings' for Avery Bradley, who's enjoying life in Detroit

BOSTON -- It was only fitting that Avery Bradley was in Boston on Sunday, his 27th birthday.
 
He has a new lease on his basketball life with the Detroit Pistons now. But the birth of Avery Bradley as an NBA player began in Boston with the Celtics, the only NBA franchise he played prior to this season.
 
Tonight he returns to where it all started, the TD Garden, as the Celtics (18-3) host the Pistons (12-7) in a battle between the top two teams in the East.

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The Celts' place among the elite in the East isn’t all that surprising. They had the best record in the conference last season, and while they radically reshuffled the roster in the offseason there was no mistaking the fact that, on paper at least, this was a more talented team than the one we saw a year ago.
 
But in that pursuit of becoming better, there was some collateral damage along the way -- specifically, the trading of Bradley.
 
When the final numbers for the salary cap came in lower than expected this summer, the Celtics had to make another deal in order to ensure they would be able to fit the four-year, $127.8 million contract signed by Gordon Hayward.
 
That led to Boston parting ways with Bradley in exchange for Marcus Morris.

"I understand what they did and I have no hard feelings at all," Bradley told reporters recently. "I ended up in a great situation, in a great organization, so I'm happy and they're playing well -- they're playing great basketball right now -- so at the end of the day it's about making the best decision for the team."


 
Not only are the Pistons off to a great start, but Bradley’s individual statistics are once again on the rise.
 
The 6-foot-2 guard is averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game. Prior to the trade, Bradley had talked about getting to the free-throw line more often. This season, he’s averaging a career-high 2.8 free throw attempts per game. Bradley’s 3-point shooting (42.5 percent) is also at an unmatched level.
 
Morris, the player Boston acquired in trading away Bradley to Detroit, isn’t surprised at all that Bradley has had such a seamless fit with the Pistons.
 
“He’s fit in Detroit because Stan [Van Gundy, Detroit's coach] is a defensive type of guy,” Morris said. “So [Bradley] can go over there, defend his ass off and he’s going to play. He’s not going to say too much about shots; Avery’s a veteran. He knows how to play the game. Detroit’s probably helping him a little more because he has the ball in his hand more, can create for himself.”
 
To see Bradley thrive in a new surrounding isn’t the least bit surprising to Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
“Huge part of our team” was the first thought that came to mind for Stevens when he was recently asked about Bradley.
 
“When we had to make that move after Gordon signed, those are really difficult things,” Stevens said. “We talked about this summer, any time you’re getting guys that are really, really talented, it usually comes at a cost in professional sports. There’s both the cost of the guy that’s been on your team, the emotional cost of someone that you’ve been around every day.
 
Stevens added, “it’s great to see him playing well. He’s having a tremendous season. They’re a heck of a team. He’s a great fit for how they play. So, hats off to him and he’s going to be a hard guy to play against.”
 

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Robert Williams raises Brows with performance vs Pelicans

Robert Williams raises Brows with performance vs Pelicans

BOSTON — From the end of the Boston bench, a suit-coat clad Aron Baynes swung his arm vigorously in celebration. Next to him, a blazer-wearing Al Horford did a double fist pump. Soon, Kyrie Irving rose to his feet and applauded the sequence in front of him.

Robert Williams had just swatted New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis for the second time in Monday’s game, the Celtics rookie somehow leaping high enough early in the fourth quarter to smother Davis’ fadeaway attempt almost the instant it left his hand.


Most nights it’s Williams on the bench, oozing his palpable joy as the Celtics regulars compete. But, on a night in which half of Boston’s regulars were sidelined, it was the veterans who reveled in the best game of the rookie’s young career.

"There’s not too many guys in the league that can block Anthony Davis’ shot,” said Marcus Morris. That alone is special. And he showed that a few times.

“He’s a young guy and, once he really learns and once he really gets out there and has time to play, he’s going to be a beast.”

With Boston’s frontcourt decimated by injuries, with Horford (knee), Baynes (ankle), and Guerschon Yabusele (ankle) all sidelined for the visit from the Pelicans, the Celtics ran Williams for 26 minutes — or just a few minutes less than he had played through the first nine games of his NBA career. 

The extremely active rookie responded with 7 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks in Boston’s 113-100 triumph at TD Garden. And it was the two rejections of Davis, bookending Williams’ night, that left everyone in the building buzzing about his potential.

Even Davis.

“[Williams is] good. He’s talented. A good defensive player,” Davis said after scoring a game-high 41 points but on 34 shots. "He got another [block] at the other end late in the second half. I just tried to change it up a little bit but I was surprised he got the first one.”

A minute after Williams checked in late in the first quarter, Davis caught the ball on the blocks. With a left-handed dribble into the paint, Davis tried to get the rookie off his feet but Williams stayed planted. Davis then rose, looking for a little left-handed hook but Williams leaped to contest and managed to swat the shot the other way off his fingertips.

Before the game, Williams, a Louisiana native, had showered Davis with praise. But also noted, “He’s my opponent. . … I’m just focusing on playing defense the way the coaches want us to play defense.”

Williams, who has embraced the nickname of Time Lord bestowed upon him by Boston’s ravenous Twitter fan base after a couple of tardiness issues at the start of his Celtics tenure, has earned heavy hype despite a limited role. His raw athleticism — unlike anything these often low-to-the-ground Celtics have seen in recent seasons — and his loud alley-oop finishes quickly endured him to fans.

Williams is averaging a robust 1.25 points per play, according to Synergy Sports offensive data, feasting on dunks and putbacks while only straying from the basket to set screens. Synergy defensive data has Williams allowing a mere 0.70 points per play, albeit on a minuscule sample (30 possessions defended). Still, Synergy data suggests opponents are shooting a mere 26.1 percent against him, a crazy number even for someone feasting on trash-time reps, particularly when you consider how often he was matched up with Davis on Monday.

As much as Williams' blocks will dominate the highlight reel, Davis did have his moments against the rookie. As Celtics coach Brad Stevens deadpanned after the game, “Well, he held him to 41.” But Stevens was just as quick to praise Williams for his relentless energy and effort.

"I thought Robert did a lot of good things,” said Stevens. “When you’re shooting jumpers and Robert’s in the vicinity, you feel him. When you’re shooting around the rim and he’s in the vicinity, you feel him. And I think he can improve a lot but I thought he did a really good job.”

Stevens has shown unwavering faith in the rookie, even after his transgressions like a missed flight that left him absent for the team’s first summer league practice. Williams has atoned with a fierce work ethic — and an apartment next to the team’s sparkling new practice facility. Williams is eager to please and Celtics executives wonder if the bumps in the road after draft day ultimately put Williams on a path to succeed.

If nothing else, Williams’ personality is lighting up the Celtics’ locker room. Veterans have put him in charge of the music. And Williams never seems to stop smiling. He has a propensity to curse and is the first to poke fun at himself.

Like before Monday's game when a reporter offered congratulations on the recent birth of his daughter. Williams deadpanned, "She looks just like me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.”

One thing is for certain, the Celtics liked the way Williams looked on Monday.

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Balanced Celtics attack fuels Boston's sixth straight win

Balanced Celtics attack fuels Boston's sixth straight win

BOSTON -- When the season began, depth was seen as one of the Boston Celtics’ strength. Injuries have a way of putting that to the test.

Well, Monday night was yet another moment when Boston’s depth passed with flying colors as they pulled away in the second half for a 113-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Boston (16-10) has now won six in a row, a winning streak that began on Nov. 26 with a 124-107 win at New Orleans.

The Celtics came into Monday’s game with several key players out, including leading scorer Kyrie Irving (shoulder) along with Al Horford (knee soreness), Aron Baynes (ankle) and Gordon Hayward (illness).

In their absence, the Celtics’ role players were more than capable of stepping up and contributing in a big way.

Boston spent most of the first half playing with a lead that peaked at 11 points before the half ended with the Celtics on top 59-53.

The third quarter began with another barrage of 3-pointers by the Celtics, pushing their lead to as many as 15 points.

Even though they botched a few possessions near the end of the third quarter, Boston still went into the fourth quarter with an 83-72 lead.

Boston continued to surge ahead for the win, getting it done with a number of seldom-used reserves making the most of their opportunity to play but even more important, help Boston emerge with yet another victory.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 13-point win over New Orleans.

STARS

Anthony Davis: The best player on the floor did not disappoint, leading all scorers with a monster game of 41 points on 17-for-34 shooting with seven rebounds and four steals.

Marcus Morris Sr.: No one seemed to maximize mismatches in the game’s early going, more than Morris Sr. He turned in yet another strong scoring performance for Boston, finishing with a season-high 31 points.

STUDS

Jayson Tatum: One of the more efficient Celtics shooting the ball, Tatum had a strong game as Boston’s primary scorer in finishing with 21 points and six rebounds.

Jaylen Brown: After a rough start shooting the ball (he was 2-for-10 at one point), Brown got it going in the second half to finish with 19 points.

Julius Randle: For most of the game, Julius Randle did a decent job as providing that second scorer for the Pelicans. He would finish with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Robert Williams III: He didn’t play a ton of minutes, but there was no mistaking Robert Williams’ presence had an impact on the game. The rookie big man used his length well on defense which included blocking a shot by perennial all-star Anthony Davis. For the game, Williams III had seven points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Semi Ojeleye: For those who did not follow Semi Ojeleye this past summer, what you saw on Monday was similar to what we saw from him this past summer. So summer league Semi was really good against the Pelicans, scoring on drives to the basket which included a Kyrie Irving-like finish at the rim. For the game, Ojeleye had 11 points and six rebounds.

DUDS

Jrue Holiday: His defense was solid as always, but the Pelicans really needed him to deliver more offensively. He had seven points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field.

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