BOSTON — The Celtics could use a little help - OK, they could use a lot of help - in improving their defense.
Help appears to be on the way in the form of Avery Bradley, who is expected back the game Sunday against Orlando.
"I don't see any reason why right now why he wouldn't play on Sunday," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after a 95-94 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Bradley sustained a right ankle sprain in the first half of a loss at Miami Jan. 21.
Boston has lost four of the five games without Bradley since the injury.
An All-NBA second team defensive selection last season, the Celtics are a weaker team without their defensive ace in play.
With Bradley, opponents were averaging 98.6 points per game, the 11th best scoring defense in the NBA at the time. Since then, they have slipped to 99.1 points and are ranked 13th in the league.
Looking back at Boston's latest loss, there's a good chance that Bradley would have been on the floor instead of Jerryd Bayless on Evan Turner's game-winning shot.
Still, as much as the Celtics will surely benefit defensively from his return, Bradley has been a steady offensive contributor as well.
Prior to his injury, the Celtics were shooting 43.8 percent from the field which ranked No. 23 in the NBA. In the last five games, Boston has connected on just 40.5 percent of its shots and are next-to-last in the league during that span.
Three-point shooting has also taken a dip from 32.8 percent with Bradley, to 31.3 since his injury.
He's averaging a career-high 14.5 points per game this season along with 4.1 rebounds, which is also a career-best mark for the fourth-year guard.
"He's really good at making shots," said teammate Kris Humphries. "Mid-range shots, threes. He brings toughness. We are happy to have him back."