Pierce, Celtics look to handle little things


Pierce, Celtics look to handle little things

WALTHAM -- After their fourth-quarter collapse during their Game 4 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics are not looking to overhaul their approach in preparation for Game 5 on Monday in Boston.

They have already proved their game plan can work -- when executed correctly. The key to the big picture is focusing on the little things the entire game.

We've just got to be a little more consistent through four quarters, Paul Pierce said before practice on Sunday. Every game is not going to play out the same way. We can't just say, 'We've got to play better in the fourth.' We've just got to be more consistent in what we do for four quarters.

The Celtics had a 46-31 halftime lead on Friday. By the end of the third quarter, the Sixers had cut the gap to 63-59. Instead of closing out the final 12 minutes and taking a critical Game 4 on the road, the Celtics were outscored 33-20 in the fourth and lost, 92-83.

The Celtics were outscored 12-5 on second chance points and 27-13 on fast break points. The 76ers had also outrebounded them, 52-38, including 17-5 on the offensive glass. (Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young each matched the Celtics team total with five offensive rebounds apiece off the 76ers bench.)

I think it's mental, said Pierce. Like I said, doing the little things. Not turning the ball over, rebounding the ball. We didn't do a good job at rebounding. They got too many second opportunities. Getting to the loose balls. We've got to win the 5050 battle. I think that's going to be a key in this series. They really beat us to a lot of those balls in the second half of Game 4.

"It's going to be the little things that really add up to the big things. Setting the right screens, getting the man open. Those little things add up to a win if we can do that consistently.

At Sundays practice, the mentality was looking back on what went wrong in Game 4, and then looking ahead of fix it in Game 5.

The milk is spilled, said Pierce. You've got to move on, clean it up, move on to the next game. You can't let it frustrate you. You can't dwell on the past. It is what it is. Series is 2-2. Obviously we've got to go back to Philly, but we've got to take care of business at home.

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.