Bradley has career night for Celtics

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Bradley has career night for Celtics

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."

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.