Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley clamps down at the point

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Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley clamps down at the point

ATLANTA Part of the Atlanta Hawks' game plan was to make sure Avery Bradley didn't have a big game.

While his 14 points and three assists may not seem that big, the second-year guard was clutch down the stretch doing what he does best - defend.

And that defense, especially against a hot-shooting Jeff Teague, was among the many things the C's did right down the stretch to escape Atlanta with an 87-80 Game 2 win to even up their best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

Having to play the point guard position with Rajon Rondo (suspension) out to start the game and at times slide over to the shooting guard spot, Bradley showed the kind of poise and backcourt versatility the Celtics desperately needed.

"Avery did a phenomenal job," said Boston's Keyon Dooling. "To be able to play two positions and run the show he played a real nice floor game. He understood that we wanted to search and seek for Paul, so he wasn't as aggressive with the ball like he usually is."

But when the Celtics needed him to deliver offensively, he made the Hawks pay. Trailing 66-64 in the fourth, Bradley drained a 16-foot jumper to tie the game. It was the first time the Celtics were not trailing since about midway through the second quarter.

Still, Bradley's bread-and-butter is still his defense, which was put to the test all game by Atlanta's Jeff Teague.

For most of the game, Teague seemed to get the better of Bradley.

But in the fourth quarter, Bradley took his defensive game to another level, one that Teague simply had no answer for.

While Teague finished with 18 points, he did it on 6-for-18 shooting.

And in the fourth?

Teague had two points, but missed all four of his shots from the field.

"Me as an individual, I knew I had to stop Teague a little bit more," Bradley said. "He got going, and I wanted to take that challenge and show my teammates I could pick up my defensive intensity and that's what I did."

Bradley's play was indeed one of the keys to Boston's victory. Here are some of the keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out over the course of the 48-minute battle which ended with an 87-80 Celtics victory.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Atlanta will try to come out and knock down shots early in the shot clock, which was a major factor in them jumping out to a 20-6 lead in Game 1. In that opening run, the Hawks made eight field goals. Of those eight field goals, five came with 10 or more seconds on the shot clock. Boston's plan on countering that is pretty simple. "We have to defend, right from the start," C's Mickael Pietrus told CSNNE.com. "We have to come out, be more aggressive, be better defensively. We do that, we'll be OK."

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's Paul Pierce carried the scoring load early while his teammates held things down defensively. Boston ended the first quarter tied at 24 against Atlanta, as the Hawks shot just 38.5 percent (10-for-26) from the field. As it turned out, that would be the most points Atlanta would score in any quarter on Tuesday. "We played great team defense tonight," said Boston's Avery Bradley.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Jason Collins: This was one of those matchups in Game 1 where the numbers were deceiving. Garnett had 20 points and 12 rebounds while Collins had just six points and five rebounds. But let's be clear: In terms of what each player wanted to do and what their teams needed from them, Collins was the winner. He made Garnett take tough, contested shots which in turn led to Garnett shooting 8-for-19 from the field. The C's have often said that Garnett doesn't need to score a bunch in order to play well. This is true. He has to provide more of a presence at both ends of the floor, especially if Josh Smith (22 points, 18 rebounds) gets off to another fast start as was the case on Sunday.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett didn't shoot the ball as well as he did in Game 1, but his impact on Tuesday was so much greater. Garnett had 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting, but four of his six, fourth-quarter points came during a critical 43-second span in which a Garnett basket and a pair of free throws tied the game up and positioned the Celtics for their fourth quarter run to take control of the game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The C's are hoping for a little post-birthday breakout game for Brandon Bass, who turned 27 years old on Monday. Although his numbers this season against the Hawks - 13 points, 8.3 rebounds while shooting 46.2 percent from the field - are better than his season averages, the 6-8 forward has not played well in his last two games against the Hawks. In a loss to Atlanta last month, he had 10 points but shot 4-for-15 from the field. And in Game 1, he was 3-for-7 with eight points. Bass said the Hawks have been defending him differently by switching more pick-and-rolls to prevent him from getting free for his mid-range jumper. While Bass would love to impact the game with his shot-making, he understands at this point impacting the game - period - is what the C's really need from him more than anything else.

"I just have to find a way to get more involved in the game earlier," Bass told CSNNE.com. "Blocking shots or something, rebounding, get everybody else involved if they're going to try and take me out of scoring. Now it's time for me to make my adjustment."

Rivers believes that it's Bass - not the Hawks - that have limited his effectiveness of late. "His mind is alive, which is never good," Rivers told CSNNE.com, referring to Bass thinking too much on the floor. "He's just gotta play. We showed him (video) he's open. He's pump-faking; just shoot it."

Despite Bass having played in 29 playoff games, Sunday's game was his first with the C's and that, Rivers believes, makes his struggles not all that different than what some of the Celtics other playoff newbies are going through now. "He hadn't been in a big game with us, so he's just like Avery (Bradley) and Greg (Stiemsma)," Rivers said. "We expected it."
WHAT WE SAW: Brandon Bass continued to have his problems getting into a flow offensively for Boston. He finished with eight points on 3-for-7 shooting, along with six rebounds. Including the regular season, Bass has failed to score in double figures in four straight games - the longest stretch of single-figure scoring he has had in this, his first season as a Celtic.

STAT TO TRACK: With Rajon Rondo out, you can expect Paul Pierce to spend more time as the Celtics' facilitator. As much as Boston benefits from Pierce's scoring, they have been very successful when the Truth is wheeling' and dealin' up assists at a fairly high rate. Pierce averaged 4.5 assists per game this season which ranked second to Rondo's NBA-high 11.7 assists per game. The Captain had 18 games in which he had six or more assists, with the Celtics emerging with an impressive 14-4 record in those games. "I tell y'all many times, I play within the flow of the game, try to give it what it needs regardless of who is out there, " Pierce said.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce did some facilitating offensively, but it was pretty clear that he was in more of a scorer's mode on Tuesday. He finished with 36 points and 14 rebounds, in addition to tallying four assists. Boston's assists leader on Tuesday was their center, Kevin Garnett, who led the C's with five assists.

How the 1956 draft changed the Celtics franchise

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How the 1956 draft changed the Celtics franchise

We take a look at how the 1956 Boston Celtics draft landed them three All-Stars and changed the franchise forever.

Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team

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Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team

BOSTON -- It seems that while Avery Bradley comes back every season with something new that he’s added to his game offensively, his defense has always been solid.

But this past year, Bradley, 25, was more committed to being not just a great on-the-ball defender, but also to expanding his game at that end of the floor to be a better help defender, too.

Bradley’s efforts didn't go unnoticed. The NBA announced Wednesday that he was among the players named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team.

It was Bradley's first time being named to the first team. His only other all-league recognition defensively came in 2013, when he was named to the league's second unit.

Bradley's play certainly was pivotal in his selection. But it didn't hurt that Portland's C.J. McCollum praised Bradley via social media as the best perimeter defender in the NBA.

"I don't think it's close," tweeted McCollum. 

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard was the lone unanimous choice on the first team. In addition to Leonard and Bradley, the first team also included Golden State’s Draymond Green, Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan’s teammate Chris Paul.

Of the first-team players, Bradley was third in total points (149), which included 62 first-team votes and 25 second-team votes. The only players with more first-team votes were Leonard (130) and Green (123).

Players were awarded two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote.

The All-NBA Defensive Second team included Paul Millsap of Atlanta, Paul George of Indiana, Hassan Whiteside of Miami, ex-Celtic and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.

Bradley wasn’t the only Celtic to receive some all-Defensive love from voters. Jae Crowder had a total of 47 points, which included 3 first-team votes. His 47 points were the third-highest among players not named to the first or second team.  Also, Celtics guard Marcus Smart received seven points which included 2 first-team votes.

Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do

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Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do

BOXFORD, Mass. -- It was just last week that Kelly Olynyk underwent right shoulder surgery that will keep him from playing for the Canadian National Team this summer in their quest for an Olympics berth in Rio, as well as have him sidelined until sometime in October. 

And yet there was the Celtics center on Wednesday with his right arm in a sling, chatting it up with kids at Spofford Pond School as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab during an unveiling ceremony, courtesy of the Celts and National Grid.

The C's and National Grid purchased 25 Chromebooks, 13 Samsung Galaxy Tablets and a 65-inch Samsung Smart TV as well as other high-tech, education-related items.

“I love the opportunity to come out, give back to the community,” said Olynyk who was also joined by former Celtic Leon Powe and Terry Sobolewski, the Chief Customer Officer for National Grid Massachusetts. “I’ve been sitting in my living room the last eight days, looking at the same four walls.”

And for Olynyk, the days of going stir crazy won’t end anytime soon.

The 7-footer had surgery on May 16, the day after he told CSNNE.com that if he elected to have surgery he would be sidelined for five months.

On Wednesday, Olynyk reiterated that the timeline for him to resume full contact had not changed.

Olynyk told CSNNE.com earlier that the surgery was “inevitable,” but that didn’t make it any easier.

“Probably the hardest decision of my life,” Olynyk said. “As far as weighing the national team, the opportunity to play in the Olympics. I played with Team Canada the last eight years, waiting for this opportunity, waiting for this day to come where we’d be on this stage, have this before us. But with the Celtics . . . talking to a bunch of people, it was inevitable that I was going to need surgery.”

Among the biggest concerns for Olynyk was the possibility of playing with Team Canada and suffering another right shoulder injury that would require surgery and potentially lead to him missing the start of the season.

By having the surgery last week Olynyk is expected to resume practicing with the Celts in the middle of October, which would give him a couple weeks of having been cleared before the season starts.

“I couldn’t miss next year,” said Olynyk who added that the decision to have the surgery was his and did not involve the Celtics pressuring him to do so. “We’re moving in the right direction. You want to keep that momentum going. It was a really tough decision. But it was something I needed to do.”

Olynyk said he will be in a sling for at least two weeks, adding that he will be in it for another 10 days or so.

“My guess is you progress, getting that motion back, making sure everything is fine, all that kind of stuff,” he said.

A healthy Olynyk could prove vital to the growth of his game as well as the Celtics’ desire to build off of last season’s 48-win club that made it to the playoffs for the second year in a row but also suffered a second consecutive first-round defeat.

Last season, Olynyk averaged 10.0 points per game and shot a career-best 40.5 percent from 3-point range. A stronger Olynyk could give the Celtics more options in how they want to use him going forward. For the most part, Boston likes to have Olynyk on the floor because of his perimeter shooting, which helps with spacing. But if he’s physically stronger, Boston can look to post him up from time to time as well, which would make him a much more dangerous weapon offensively.

No one anticipates Olynyk will suddenly morph into a dominant, inside-outside scoring threat. But added strength does give him a chance to improve as both a rebounder and defender, two areas in which Olynyk was up and down this past season.

And admittedly he was at his worst during the playoffs, when the Celtics desperately needed someone -- anyone -- to help space the floor as the Hawks packed in the paint, which limited the drives to the basket by Isaiah Thomas.

“(I was) cleared [medically to play], but I wasn’t able to help the team at all. I couldn’t do anything,” Olynyk said. “My arm . . . I couldn’t hold off one of these kids with my arm. Shooting pains, it was giving out. Motions without contact were okay. But once you put any contact on my arm, it was done. So I couldn’t do anything.”

Olynyk is hopeful the surgery will alleviate the issues with the shoulder, which sidelined him for 12 games in addition to limiting his effectiveness in the playoffs.

“[The doctors] tell me [I’m] going to be stronger than [I’ve] ever felt, ever been,” Olynyk said.