Celtics finally see what their backcourt can do

Celtics finally see what their backcourt can do
March 20, 2014, 12:30 am
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BOSTON — Rajon Rondo finding guys in their sweet spots for easy baskets. Avery Bradley drilling 3s at one end of the floor and locking up 2s (shooting guards) at the other.

This is the backcourt the Celtics have been wanting, and needing, to see for so long this season.

And the wait was indeed worth it on Wednesday night as Rondo and Bradley played pivotal roles in the Celtics' 101-96 victory over the Miami Heat.

Of course it helped that the Celtics faced the Heat minus LeBron James (back spasms). Still, his absence should not completely take away from a night when Boston's seldom-seen backcourt came through with a powerful performance.

Bradley led all scorers with 23 points, which included a career-high six made 3s. Rondo came within a point of his first triple-double this season, finishing with 9 points, 10 rebonds and 15 assists.

Coming in, the duo had appearned in eight games this season for a total of just 127 minutes. On Wednesday, the two saw action together for 32 minutes.

Coach Brad Stevens liked what he saw, but is well aware that it's difficult to judge them long-term because they've seen such little action together this season.

"I thought they did a pretty good job," Stevens said. "You know, Avery can handle the ball in certain situations and we can play Rondo off and then let him play off reversal to pick and roll, which is actually advantageous, and then also Rondo can find him for open shots."

Still, as far as their play together going forward, Stevens said, "Time will tell, right?"

Bradley is a restricted free agent this summer, while Rondo can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015 unless the Celtics re-sign him to an extension.

Although Bradley has said repeatedly that he wants to remain in Boston, there are no guarantees that will happen.

One thing that is clear: Bradley would love to be part of this franchise's backcourt of the future, with Rondo.

"I would love it," Bradley said. "I would love to play for Boston, I would love to play with Rondo so I wouldn't mind it at all. I'm pretty sure any guard in the NBA would love to play with Rondo."

And that, to some degree, has made this season more frustrating than most.

Early on in his time with the Celtics, Bradley was too young, too inexperienced and just flat-out not ready to play a significant role.

While most young players struggle adapting to the speed of the game at first, Bradley's problem was that he was going too fast, too out of control.

That, coupled with playing behind future Hall of Famer Ray Allen (now with Miami), meant little time on the floor with Rondo during his rookie season.

In his second year, then-coach Doc Rivers decided to give a much-improved Bradley a chance to play with the starters. That's when he emerged as a potentially dominant, on-the-ball defender.

Since then, injuries have cut short his time on the floor with Rondo.

And when Bradley was healthy enough to play, it was Rondo out because of injuries.

That's why these final games of the regular season are so important.

"We get a chance now to finish the last 13, 14 games off playing with each other and showing what we can do," Bradley said.