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.

Al Horford recalls offseason flirtation with Rockets

Al Horford recalls offseason flirtation with Rockets

Al Horford was destined to play in tonight’s game between Boston and Houston.
 
But for which team?
 
That was the question the four-time All-Star pondered this summer when he narrowed his list of suitors outside of Atlanta to Boston, Houston and Washington, in that order.
 
“I really considered coming here,” Horford told reporters on Monday. “But them and Boston and Washington. (Houston) and Boston were probably the two teams I was really, really looking at. Just a lot to consider.”

When you look at how seamless Horford has fit in with the Celtics and how well the Rockets (13-7) have played this season, you get the feeling that Horford would have found success individually and for whichever team he chose.
 
“At the end of the day, I just felt I was better off being here in Boston,” Horford said.
 
Rockets All-Star James Harden was among the party Houston sent to try and woo Horford to the Rockets.

“I thought we had a chance,” Harden said. “I thought we had a real good chance, but obviously it didn’t work out. Which is fine.”
 
Indeed, the Rockets have been one of the surprise teams of the NBA this season in large part to Harden moving to the point guard position full-time.
 
Not only is he once again ranked among the NBA’s top scorers at 28.3 points which ranks fourth in the NBA, but he’s also dishing out a league-high 11.8 assists per game.
 
“They made it pretty clear in the offseason that he was going to be the point guard,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “He’s got the ball all the time. He had the ball a lot before, but certainly now with their spacing and his ability to make the play himself or the right read to the big rolling or to the many good shooters around, it’s a perfect setup for him and his skillset.”
 
The ability to draw defenders and create space for those around him is one of the many reasons why the Rockets felt Horford would have been an ideal fit for their system.
 
But the same argument can be made for the Celtics who unlike the Rockets, at least attempt to play defense at a high level.
 
Boston began the season ranked among the worst defenses in the NBA, but are currently up to 18th with a defensive rating of 105.0. Meanwhile, the Rockets’ defense ranks 27th in the league with a 107.2 defensive rating.