A. Sherrod Blakely

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returns to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returns to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

BOSTON – Avery Bradley will be back in the Boston Celtics’ lineup tonight after missing the previous four games with a right Achilles injury, head coach Brad Stevens announced a few minutes ago.

The return of Bradley strengthens a Celtics roster that’s already playing some of its best basketball of the season, evident by wins in eight of their last 10 games.

And they face a Charlotte team that has dropped four in a row, and are in jeopardy of slipping below .500 for the first time this season.

The Hornets did not have their leading scorer Kemba Walker available the last time they played Boston.

“But again, the things we have to do remain the same,” said Hornets head coach Steve Clifford. “Our pace and play last game was good. I was surprised at the quality of shots we had. But you can’t have breakdowns defensively.”

Which is where having Bradley back in the mix will bode well for Boston’s chances of extending their current season-long home winning streak to seven.

Bradley’s return isn’t the only good news on the health front for Boston.

Kelly Olynyk, coming off a season-high 26 points in Boston’s 103-101 win at Atlanta on Friday, suffered an ankle sprain prior to the team’s practice on Sunday.

Stevens said it wasn’t serious and Olynyk will be available to play tonight.

The only players out for Boston are Tyler Zeller (sinus infection) and James Young (right ankle sprain).

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

BOSTON -- The last time Boston saw the Charlotte Hornets last month, both teams were streaking in the wrong direction with each coming in having lost three in a row.

Both come into tonight’s game streaking, although in two very different directions.

Boston (25-15) has won 12 of its last 15 games to firmly establish itself as the third-best team in the East behind Cleveland and Toronto. Meanwhile the Hornets (20-20) are on the cusp of falling below .500 for the first time this season after losing their last four games.

Still, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen enough of this Hornets team to know that a win tonight won’t come easily.

“This is a good team,” Stevens said. “We all know Charlotte. They don’t beat themselves. We’ve had to play really well against those guys. This is going to be a tough one, as we all know.”

Figuring out why these two teams are trending in opposite directions isn’t all that complicated.

For the Celtics, their success of late has hinged heavily on their ability to make 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s problems have had a lot to do with a tough slate of road games (all four of their recent losses were on the road) and their inability to make shots which has been an issue in some form for them all season regardless of the opponent.

Look at the last four games, all of which the Hornets lost while the Celtics won three of their four games in that span.

The Hornets rank 21st in scoring with a 101.5 points per game average while the Celtics average 110.8 points which ranks 8th in the league.

Charlotte ranks dead-last in the league the last four games when it comes to shooting the ball (40.5 percent), while Boston comes in 18th at 46.0 percent.

But it’s the 3-point shot and its impact on having an effective field goal percentage, that really separates these two.

Boston has averaged a league-best 15.3 made 3-pointers in the last four games while the Hornets and their 9.8 made 3’s ranks 20th.

And as far as its impact on eFG%, Boston comes in with the eighth-best eFG% in the league (54.8 percent) while the Hornets next-to-last in the NBA with an eFG% of .462.

So what does that mean tonight?

Boston will look to continue being fueled offensively by good ball movement and attacking the rim which in turn should result in lots of good looks from 3-point range which is clearly a strength of this team.

Charlotte will search for other sources of offense besides former UConn star Kemba Walker who is on the short list of candidates for a spot on this year’s Eastern Conference all-star roster.

As was the case in Charlotte’s 102-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, an off-night shooting for Walker (17 points, 7-for-23 shooting with three assists) left the Hornets extremely vulnerable to defeat. Similar struggles tonight will provide a similar ending for Charlotte which would allow both teams to continue streaking along … something the Celtics wouldn’t mind at all.

C's showed Patriots support in AFC semifinal game

C's showed Patriots support in AFC semifinal game

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has a tremendous amount of respect for New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and what he has built in Foxboro.

But it wasn't until Sunday’s playoff game between the Patriots and the Houston Texans did he actually see them play at Foxboro.

And while Stevens is from Indiana and is indeed an Indianapolis Colts fan, the Patriots have his support for a multitude of reasons.

“It was fun to watch,” said Stevens who attended the game with his father and his son. “When you talk about rooting interest, you root for who you know. I was definitely rooting for them. I hope they can go all the way. It was fun to watch.”

He wasn’t the only Celtic in Foxboro cheering on the Patriots who pulled away for a 34-16 win over the Texans.

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was there watching from a suite.

“It was a nice. They won. I got a lot of backlash for switching up,” said Thomas, a Tacoma, Wash. Native who grew up rooting for the Seattle Seahawks.

“It was good, just to be on that field and be around those guys,” Thomas said. “You can tell, they’re focused on winning a championship, winning the Superbowl. You want to be around those type of players.”

That goes for coaches as well, which is why Brad Stevens has maintained a good relationship with Belichick who has created the kind of winning atmosphere that all coaches want.

“One of the things they’ve’ created is sustainability and culture,” Stevens said. “Any coach wants to be in a position where over the course of time every single year you suit up, you got a chance. Because of the commitment of doing things the way they want to do it … they’ve created that. I can’t say enough good things about the job that he’s done. I’ve got a chance to watch him up close. You feel pretty inadequate when you walk out of that building as a coach.”

Stevens has also been impressed with the way the Patriots have handled injuries and situations where  a key player has been down.

“There’s been a ton of change in the roster and he just keeps churning out wins regardless of who is on the field. Obviously (Tom) Brady has been a constant through all of that. But at the same time, there have been a lot of changes at a lot of significant positions. They just do their job well. That’s the bottom line.