Bradley's career-best can't save Celtics

Bradley's career-best can't save Celtics
March 22, 2014, 1:00 am
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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — When Avery Bradley left the game early in the first quarter with what was clearly an ankle-related injury, no one knew for sure if he would return.

Did. He. Ever.

Bradley returned to action, doing more of what he did prior to leaving - knocking down shots.

Despite finishing with a season-high 28 points, Bradley's big game was not enough as the Brooklyn Nets used a more balanced attack in defeating the Celtics 114-98.

The 28 points scored by Bradley was not just a season high, but also tied his career high which he set on April 20, 2012 at Atlanta.

"He just had it going," said Rajon Rondo. "It was one of those nights, Avery was in a zone. And coach (Brad Stevens) drew up some nice plays for him and he was able to execute and finish with a score."

Bradley, who missed 13 consecutive games with a right ankle sprain, said he tweaked the ankle but wasn't too concerned about it.

"I was able to come to the back and walk it off," Bradley said.

Even after he had knocked down a couple of shots, the good looks at the basket just kept coming for the 6-2 guard.

"I wasn't surprised," Bradley said. "The opportunities were there and I was able to knock down shots. My teammates were getting me the ball. Rondo was putting me in good positions to be able to make plays. And like I said, I was able to make shots."

And the Celtics desperately needed his shot-making, especially against a Brooklyn team that was seemingly scoring from all points on the floor.

As bad as the 16-point loss might look, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens knows it could have been much, much worse.

"That's the only reason it was respectable," said Stevens, referring to Bradley's big night scoring. "We weren't very good on the defensive end of the floor."

The Celtics have enough veterans on this team to know that when a player has the hot hand like that, the rest of the players have to contribute in other ways such as rebounding or defense.

The Celtics held their own on the boards, but Boston's defense?

Horrible in every sense of the word.

"You've got to follow his (Bradley) lead," said Boston's Jeff Green who had 16 points - 10 of which came in the first quarter. "As a team, we've got to have his back if he's making shots, keeping us in the game. As a team, we've got to gather together and try to get defensive stops, and we didn't do it."

Added Stevens: "When Avery started going off, we accepted trading baskets instead of really getting stops."

Bradley's big scoring night continues a trend of becoming a more aggressive scorer; a trend that began to manifest itself at the start of this season.

More than anything else, Bradley sees himself merely taking advantage of the opportunity to become more of a primary scorer for the Celtics.

"It helped me become a lot more confident out there," Bradley said. "Not only that, my teammates."

Indeed, they were able to find Bradley in spots on the floor that he normally doesn't look to score from, like 3s along the wings and top of the key as opposed to the corner.

"I've been working on shooting the ball from everywhere, and not just the corner," Bradley said. "I've been able to knock them down. It shows that hard work pays off. Even though it's towards the end of the season, I can go into the summer with something to work on."

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