Celts benefit as Davis finally returns to form

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Celts benefit as Davis finally returns to form

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK For most of the Boston Celtics' first-round series with New York, the Glen Davis we had come to expect was nowhere to be found.

Known for stepping his game up in the playoffs, the Celtics' undersized power forward was consistently underwhelming at every turn.

In Boston's first three playoff games against New York, he was 5-for-16 from the field.

And his defense?

That wasn't much better, either.

But then came Easter Sunday 2011, a day folks across the world recognize the power of resurrection.

On a much smaller scale that day at Madison Square Garden, we saw Davis return to the game-changing, high-impact super-sub the Celtics have come to know and love.

The end result was a 14-point night, one of several factors in the Celtics knocking off the Knicks, 101-89, to complete a four-game sweep.

By beating the Knicks in such a quick fashion, the Celtics came home to a couple days off as opposed to having to prepare for a Game 5 matchup against the Knicks.

Even as the Celtics rolled through the first three games against New York, it was clear Davis was trying too hard.

"I feel relief," he said following Sunday's win.

Coach Doc Rivers is often Davis' biggest critic.

Although it doesn't always look like it, he's also one of his biggest supporters.

That's why even when Davis struggled, Rivers never lost faith in that at some point, Davis would get on track and help the Celtics win.

But there are times when Rivers, who knows all too well how emotional Davis can be, has to take that additional step with the 25-year-old and sit him down for a one-on-one talk.

The two had such a conversation recently, and the result . . . well, we saw it on Easter Sunday.

"Sometimes, emotionally I can get down on myself or get frustrated," said Davis, who made 6-of-8 shots in the C's series-clinching victory. "Emotionally you kind of worry about the wrong things."

Lately, Davis said he has been worrying about what he can do to help the C's instead of just playing his game.

Rivers reminded him this week that simply being who he is, is exactly what the Celtics need.

"I wanted to help my team anyway possible," Davis said. "Things weren't working my way, so you get frustrated."

What Davis was experiencing, Rivers said, was symbolic of what the Celtics' second unit as a whole was going through in this series.

In the first three games, it was clear Boston's success was primarily because of the starters playing exceptionally well.

But in Game 4, Boston's bench proved to be the difference.

"We had a big lead (in Game 4), and it was because of our bench," Rivers said. "They all were feeling the adversity and going through it, and they just hung in there. That's what happens in the playoffs. This was a great example of that. You play one or two bad games, and everyone tells you how bad you are, you start rushing. They just came out and played."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.