Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley's effort sparks Celtics

Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley's effort sparks Celtics
January 6, 2013, 3:43 am
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ATLANTA Avery Bradley like most of his Boston Celtics teammates, didn't come out playing well to start the game.

"That first half, I didn't have any energy," he told CSNNE.com. "But I came at halftime and told myself, I have to find that energy somewhere and that's what I did; I played as hard as I could."

And Bradley's effort is indeed becoming contagious with his Celtics teammates stepping up their play defensively as well in the second half as Boston rallied for an 89-81 win over Atlanta.

Bradley had six points and four rebounds, but numbers do little justice when it comes to explaining the impact he has made on the C's in just his second game back.

His ability to pick up ball-handlers the full length of the court has a tendency to wear down opponents, evident by Atlanta's guards turning the ball over six times in the second half after not committing a single turnover in the first half.

"I just wanted to give everything I could give. That's what I did," Bradley said.

For all that went right for the C's in the second half, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed out that the play of his perimeter players defensively was instrumental.

"We pressured the ball with our two guards (Bradley and Rajon Rondo) and that made a huge difference," Rivers said.

Here are some other keys highlighted prior to the game, and how they actually played out as the Celtics (16-17) string together back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a month (Dec. 8 and Dec. 12).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A big part of Boston's success against the Pacers on Friday was their ability to hold their own on the boards. In fact, Boston was plus-2 on the boards which is a major coup for them. They will look to be just as good or better tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics pulled off a rare feat in out-rebounding an opponent two games in a row. Boston was plus-8 (44-36) on the boards against the Hawks who have also had their struggles on the board. Like Boston, the league's worst rebounding team, Atlanta is also ranked in the bottom 10 (No. 24) with 49 rebounds per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Al Horford: Both have the ability to score around the basket as well as facing the basket. But Horford's experience and youthfulness give him a slight edge over the future Hall of Famer.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was an efficient scorer (14 points, 7-for-12 shooting) who did a much better job on the boards than his five rebounds would indicated. Meanwhile, Horford's impact was never felt offensively (6 points, 2-for-8 shooting) and his nine rebounds didn't do much to help the Hawks' efforts, either.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Terry could use a stretch of consistent play which isn't coming anytime soon for the Celtics. Against the Pacers, he missed six of his eight shots from the field and finished with six points.

WHAT WE SAW: Terry had another less-than-stellar night shooting the ball, scoring four points on 2-for-8 shooting despite the Celtics making an effort to free him up for shots. Still, he was part of a perimeter defensive unit that stymied the Atlanta guards in the second half.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston should capitalize on an Atlanta team that sends opposing teams to the free throw line - a lot. Hawks opponents are averaging 14.5 free throws made and 18.4 free throw attempts - both league highs.

WHAT WE SAW: Free throw shooting was never a factor in tonight's outcome, although the Celtics know they have to do better than 8-for-12 from the line.