Celtics look to improve individual defense for Game 3

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Celtics look to improve individual defense for Game 3

In preparation for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Boston Celtics will watch game film for each shot they missed. They will also look over every shot they gave up to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics system is rooted in defense. Even when struggling with their own offense, they have been able to clamp down on D and keep their opponents from scoring.

After their 82-81 loss to the 76ers in Game 2, they are looking to get back to that fundamental approach as they head to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.

Its just about individual defense at that point, said Paul Pierce. Thats it. I dont think it was really the plays. Its about us manning up at the end and taking the challenge.

Pierce further explained, Individual defense. It wasnt anything special they were running. They were setting picks, getting to the point where they get their guys in isolation, so its up to us to be able to play great individual defense toward the end.

The Celtics fought back from a 57-49 third quarter deficit to tie the game, 65-65, with 4:33 left. But even though they outscored the 76ers, 32-25, in the fourth quarter, the visiting team scored six straight points in the final minute to go up 80-75 with 8.5 seconds remaining, enough to hold on for the 82-81 win.

I thought the third quarter really hurt us when we couldnt score but our defense wasnt there, said Pierce. They were taking a nine-, ten-point lead and its hard when youre trying to fight back. We got the lead and we just didnt get the stop we needed down the stretch.

Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett echoed Pierces sentiments of buckling down on D. While the Celtics will look to execute their own offense late in the game, it will be a priority to stop the 76ers from doing the same.

We have to play better individual one-on-one defense, Rondo said. I have to guard the ball better, keep the ball out of the paint.

Added Garnett, Defensively, we have to be a lot more sound on the ball. A lot of missed assignments tonight. Theyre a good team, too. They made some adjustments tonight, shot the ball better, attacked the basket.

Garnett said the Celtics are better than how they performed in Game 2. Looking ahead to Wednesdays Game 3 in Philadelphia, they are determined to prove it.

Well watch film Tuesday and get better, he said.

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.