Bradley faces tough challenge in Harden

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Bradley faces tough challenge in Harden

BOSTON Avery Bradley will be tested every night he steps on the floor.

It comes with the territory when you have the kind of rep Bradley has developed as a lock-down, in-your-face defender.

And while many are looking forward to his matchup tonight against Houston's explosive scoring guard James Harden, Bradley's approach is no different tonight than it would be for any other player.

"He's a good player," Bradley told CSNNE.com. "There's a lot of great players in the league. All you have to do is try and make it hard on them."

And Bradley has been able to do this in a variety of ways.

For quick guards, Bradley uses his strength and lateral quickness to become a pest and force them into either dribbling too long, losing the ball or giving it up to a teammate sooner than they would like.

Against bigger guards like Harden (6-foot-5, 220) who has Bradley by three inches and about 40 pounds, keeping as close to Harden's body will be instrumental in limiting Harden who averages 26.5 points per game this season.

"There's a lot of two-guards bigger than me," Bradley said. "Like I said, you have to make everything hard on him."

Boston dropped a 101-89 loss to Houston on Dec. 14, a game in which Bradley saw from the sideline (he was still recovering from his shoulder surgeries at that time) how the Rockets had little problem getting anything and everything they wanted in handing the Celtics a loss in which the final score wasn't nearly as lopsided as the actual game played.

However, Harden had just 21 points on 6-for-17 shooting that night which as it turns out, was the last time Harden scored less than 25 points in a game - a span of 14 games.

"He probably had an off night," C's Brandon Bass told Comcast SportsNet. "That's all I will say. But tonight, we got a better defender on him."

And that would be Bradley, who will be playing in his sixth game of the season after spending the first 30 games recovering from surgery on both his shoulders.

"We weren't playing the way we wanted to," Bradley said of last month's loss in Houston. "We had flashes of playing the way we want to play every now and then."

But Bradley, like the Celtics, isn't dwelling on the past right now.

Instead, he's more consumed by helping the C's extend their season-long winning streak to five in a row against a Houston team that has won 12 of its last 16 games.

"It's a whole new game for us," Bradley said. "We're building right now. We just have to continue to get better."

And part of that improvement will be Bradley passing yet another test of his defensive prowess against one of the more challenging scorers in the NBA - James Harden.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics surge at end of second quarter

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics surge at end of second quarter

BOSTON –  For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics were hosting a team eager to get off a losing skid.

But a strong surge near the end of the second quarter gave the Celtics a 65-56 halftime lead over Portland which came into the night having lost four straight.

Boston opened with a 12-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder – his second within the game’s first couple minutes.

But the Blazers were being carried by C.J. McCollum, half of the most explosive backcourt in the NBA. His 12 first-quarter points were crucial to keeping the Blazers within 28-26 at the end of the quarter.

McCollum continued to out-perform everyone else on the floor, even Isaiah Thomas who had a quieter than usual first half.

But the 5-foot-9 Thomas continued to make all the plays needed to put the Celtics back on top courtesy of a 12-3 run that put them ahead 57-49 with 1:55 to play in the half.

From there, Boston was able to maintain control of the game.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

While there’s still talk about whether Damian Lillard will be an All-Star this year, McCollum has played well enough to where he’s at least worthy of a mention in the All-Star conversation. He certainly carried Portland in the first half with 26 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

As usual, Thomas drew a considerable amount of attention from the opposing defense. And slowly but surely, he found cracks that he could exploit. At the half, he had 17 points, four assists and three rebounds, one of which was an offensive board that he put-back in for a lay-up.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He put the Celtics on a good path from the outset, knocking down a couple 3’s in the first couple of minutes. He finished the half with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting which included a trio of 3-pointers.

Meyers Leonard

He was 3-for-4 in the first half which included a pair of powerful dunks over Boston’s Jordan Mickey. At the half he had eight points and two rebounds.

 

DUDS

Damian Lillard

It was a rough half for the two-time All-Star, tallying just three points on 1-for-5 shooting. A big part of his problem? Foul trouble. He played just 10 minutes in the first half due in large part to having three personal fouls.