Bradley has career night for Celtics

Bradley has career night for Celtics
March 26, 2012, 3:24 am
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BOSTON The Boston Celtics got a big-game performance from someone besides the Big Four, as Avery Bradley had a career-high 23 points in Boston's 88-76 win over Washington.

A good chunk of his scoring this season has come on lay-ups cutting to the basket.

He got plenty of those against a porous Wizards defense.

But he also started to knock down mid-range jumpers and a 3-pointer, creating the kind of scene that could have easily resulted in a, 'I told ya so,' from head coach Doc Rivers.

"One of the things I've said consistently all year is that he can shoot the ball," Rivers said. "And he was making me a liar for most of the year. It was great to see them go in."

Bradley, who got the starting nod for Ray Allen (ankle) and is expected to fill in for Allen on Monday at Charlotte, is no stranger to the starting lineup.

He came into Sunday's game having had 10 starts this year, all in place of Rajon Rondo.

So the opportunity to play with Rondo instead of filling in for him, was clearly something that brought out the best in Bradley.

"Playing with Rondo is better for him," Rivers said. "He could just run out. He didn't have to wait for the ball, he didn't have to call a play, he didn't have to think where everybody was at; he just ran."

And in the process, he ran all over the hapless Wizards.

But as well as his numbers were, Washington coach Randy Wittman was clearly not impressed with the second-year guard's play.

"I could have scored those lay-ups," Wittman said. "I am being serious. We didn't have anybody guarding him. He ought to send us a postcard of thank-yous or something for allowing him to score."

Not sure if the United States Postal Service could handle the enormous amount of post card thank-yous the Wizards would receive if every player who lit them up this season - and there have been a lot - took that approach.

It doesn't matter now, not with the Celtics (26-22) continuing their quest at claiming the Atlantic Division crown while the Washington Wizards continue to look more like the Washington Generals.

With the C's win coupled with a loss by Philadelphia to San Antonio, Boston now trails the Sixers (27-22) by half a game.

Boston's chances of moving up to the top spot can only be helped with performances like the one Bradley put on Sunday night.

Even though it was his scoring that garnered most of the post-game attention, Bradley insists his focus remains on getting the job done defensively.

"I was fortunate enough that my teammates could find me in transition," he said.

While that's true, Bradley also displayed the ability to score from the perimeter, something he has been reluctant to look for until recently.

"I think that it's just a confidence thing," Bradley said. "I'm feeling more confident out there. My teammates make me feel more confident, more comfortable, so then I am knocking down more shots."

You can add Paul Pierce to the growing list of Celtics excited about Bradley's big game, and look forward to seeing more big things from him in the future.

"It's just good to watch a guy like Avery mature right before your eyes over the last couple of years," Pierce said.

And that growth will go far in Boston making the kind of deep playoff run that they have come to expect annually.

"All the great teams and all the champions always have that player who can set up outside the stars and that's what makes a team, an even better team," Pierce said. "Each night we gotta have guys, and tonight it was Avery."