Bass finds his stroke going into East finals


Bass finds his stroke going into East finals

MIAMI With a roster full of All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, it's understandable if a player like Brandon Bass gets lost in the shuffle.

Both of the Celtics' playoff opponents so far, Atlanta and Philadelphia, overlooked Bass at times until they had little choice but to acknowledge the 6-foot-9 veteran that was killing them with his mid-range jumper.

He's starting to knock that shot down with a lot more frequency of late, a trend he hopes to continue as the C's gear up for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Miami on Monday.

Bass, who came to Boston via sign and trade from Orlando prior to the start of the season, wasn't sure what his role would be at first.

After competing against Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for so many years, he understood all too well how talented they were.

Beyond the talent, they knew how to win at the highest level possible.

And while Bass' talent made him an immediate hit with his teammates, all involved knew that once the playoffs arrived, it would take a different kind of mental discipline, mental toughness for Bass to be successful.

Bass had a lot of the same looks offensively early on in the playoffs that he had throughout the regular season, but the shots weren't falling as consistently as he and the C's were used to.

The pressure that is playoff basketball was certainly a factor in his offensive struggles.

After watching video, it became pretty clear to head coach Doc Rivers what was going on.

"He was thinking too much," Rivers told "Brandon is such a better player -- most of our guys are, actually -- when they just play the game and not think it as much."

Bass knows how much this season means to his teammates, and in many ways, he was trying too hard to figure out what he could do to help the team instead of reverting back to doing what they've told him they need him to do -- be Brandon Bass.

"I had so many thoughts going on in my head about what I wanted to do in the playoffs and how I was going to help this team," Bass said. "Those guys were able to comfort me by telling me it's going to be hard and to expect Game 7s."

That's exactly what the Celtics got on Saturday.

And to Bass' credit, he responded with the kind of game that you would love to have from a guy that's considered your fourth-best starter, if that.

Bass only had two rebounds, but he scored 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting along with playing solid defense.

But maybe the most impressive statistic for him was the four assists which tied his career-high.

Rajon Rondo was given a lot of credit for the two jumpers he hit -- one was a long, 2-pointer and the other was a 3-pointer -- in the fourth quarter which gave Boston its first double-digit lead in the fourth.

Bass, jokingly referred to at times as 'No Pass Bass,' was the man with the assist in both of those made baskets.

But the greatest impact he can make is simply taking advantage of whatever mismatch he has. As we've seen throughout the playoffs, his size, strength and shooting skills makes him a difficult player for opponents to defend.

In Boston's first round series against Atlanta, he was at times matched up with Jason Collins who was significantly slower and struggled to get back to Bass on pick-and-roll plays. Still, Bass only averaged nine points while shooting 41 percent from the field - both below his regular season numbers.

Against Philadelphia in the second round, Bass had the potential for similar success on most nights with either Spencer Hawes or Elton Brand guarding him. The first-round experience clearly helped Bass, who averaged 14 points while shooting 46.8 percent from the field.

But against the Heat, he'll likely be paired with Miami's Shane Battier who is starting at power forward despite spending the bulk of his career defending small forwards.

"That is a matchup I want to take advantage of," Bass said. "I want to help my team in anyway I can. Shane Battier, is a solid player and defender; I'm up for the challenge."

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”