Bradley continues to improve

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Bradley continues to improve

BOSTON The Boston Celtics would love to have all their guys healthy and ready to play, especially point guard Rajon Rondo.

But if there has been a positive associated with his absence -- and we're not talking about their 6-2 record without him, either -- it has been the development of Avery Bradley.

The second-year guard continues to get better and better with more playing time, with the latest example of his steadily improving game being on display in Boston's 100-64 win over Toronto.

Bradley, who has started every game that Rondo has missed this season, finished with a season-high tying 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

The fact that he's becoming a more active participant in the C's offense is encouraging.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers recognized that in some ways, teams were beginning to play off him akin to the way they do Rondo who has had his share of ups and downs shooting the ball, something Bradley can relate to.

Becoming a better cutter without the ball, Bradley said, has been a steady message Rivers has been delivering to the former first-round pick.

"That's one thing I focused on coming into the game, on the offensive end," Bradley said. "Cuts not only get me open, it gets my teammates open. I'm just getting better at cutting every single game."

Of Bradley's five made field goals, four were lay-ups.

And the fifth?

An eight-foot jumper.

While Bradley says he wants to be as good a cutter at the basket as Rondo, Rivers has another point guard in mind he would like Bradley to emulate when it comes to making cuts.

"I told Avery, 'he has to be (Denver Nuggets guard) Andre Miller,' who I think is the best cutter without the ball," Rivers said. "No one guards him, and he keeps scoring 15, 16 points a game. Teams keep doing what they're doing, and he back-cuts."

And now, so does Bradley.

"I just have to keep on improving, and learning every game," Bradley said.

Once Rondo is healthy enough to return, Rivers has reiterated that Rondo will be back to starting and that Bradley will return to coming off the bench where he will compete for playing time with rookie E'Twaun Moore.

And while no one questions the C's as being a better team with Rondo, at least now Rivers knows he can look elsewhere at that position, if needed.

"Well, it is a benefit," Rivers said. "I mean, the amount of games and listen, Rondo's healing and getting rest. The way he plays, it's only a benefit for us, You know, E'Twaun and Avery are gaining confidence, and that's good for them as well. So in every way it's a benefit."

Thomas strains right groin, says he'll 'be fine for Wednesday'

Thomas strains right groin, says he'll 'be fine for Wednesday'

The bumps and bruises continue to pile up for Isaiah Thomas, adding a new one to the group during Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston. 
 
The 5-foot-9 guard said he strained his right groin in the second quarter, but added that the injury won’t force him to miss any games. 
 
“I’ll be alright,” Thomas told reporters after the loss. “I’ll get treatment. I’ll be fine for Wednesday (against Orlando).”
 
The injury appeared to have happened shortly after Houston’s Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer that put the Rockets ahead 55-45.
 
At the time it didn’t seem all that serious as Thomas, who had 20 points on the night, came down and drained a 3-pointer. 
 
But after the game, Thomas acknowledged his groin did bother him during the game in which he played 33-plus minutes. 
 
“A few drives I didn’t have the lift,” said Thomas, who finished with 20 points. “It is what it is. I’ll figure it out.”
 
Thomas, who played in all 82 regular season games last season in addition to each of Boston’s 21 games this season, has dealt with an assortment of injuries including but not limited to, a swollen middle finger injury on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
Thomas, an All-Star last season for the first time, has played at an elite level that should once again position him to be represent the Eastern Conference. 
 
Following Monday’s game, Thomas is averaging a career-high 26.0 points per game which ranks ninth in the NBA along with 6.1 assists. 

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

The fact that the James Harden of the Houston Rockets went to the free throw line 18 times which was more than the entire Celtics roster (12 free throw attempts total) certainly fired up conspiracy theorists among Celtics Nation. 
 
But what seemed to draw the most ire was what appeared to be a 3-pointer by Avery Bradley late in the fourth quarter that was initially called a long two-pointer. 
 
And after it was reviewed by the good folks in Secaucus, N.J., they allowed the ruling to stand because there wasn’t enough proof in the many replay angles for them to overturn the original call. 
 
The missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the closing seconds stand out, obviously. 
 
But the 3-pointer that wasn’t a 3-pointer was one of the more talked-about topics in the Celtics locker room afterwards. 
 
“From the angle we saw, it was a three,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told reporters after the game. “We definitely thought it was.”
 
Said Jae Crowder: “I thought it was a three. Nothing we can do about it now.”
 
It was that kind of game for the Celtics, one in which plays that could go either way more often than not, went against them. 
 
And while Bradley’s questionable two-pointer certainly was a factor in the game’s outcome, as was the free throw discrepancy and the late-game misses, ultimately the blame for Monday’s loss falls upon the Celtics players who were still in position to win despite all those setbacks.

They simply didn't get it done, when it mattered.
 
Smart, who had 13 points off the Celtics bench, understands that fans like to blame the officials when a game ends like Monday’s loss to Houston. 
 
“Officials, they did their job,” Smart said. “You can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game. We made some costly plays down the stretch. Give credit to the Rockets. They made plays and executed down the stretch.”