Smith: 'I understand the importance' of game four

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Smith: 'I understand the importance' of game four

BOSTON Josh Smith acknowledges the left knee sprain that kept him out of Game 3 is still bothersome.

That pain, he says, won't prevent him from playing in Game 4 on Sunday.

"It's still a little pain in there, but I understand the importance of this game," Smith told CSNNE.com. "You can't play injured, but you can play a little hurt."

So which are you?

"I'm a little hurt; a little hurt," he said with a grin. "Might be a little bit of both, know what I mean? I know when that adrenaline starts to kick in, I probably won't feel it until after the basketball game."

The absence of Smith, who will not practice today but said he plans to go a little "harder" during shoot-around tomorrow, was clearly felt by an Atlanta team that now trails the Celtics, 2-1, in their best-of-seven series following Friday night's 90-84 overtime win by the C's.
Smith understands another loss would make it nearly impossible for the Hawks to advance.

"I understand my teammates need me out there, so I have to go out there and try to play the best I can play," he said.

Hearing that Smith planned to play, not surprisingly, was well received by his head coach Larry Drew.

"I like hearing that," Drew said. "He's one guy that has a high tolerance for pain; I do know that about him."

Bradley on return to Celtics lineup: 'I wish I played a little bit more'

Bradley on return to Celtics lineup: 'I wish I played a little bit more'

BOSTON – Before Monday’s 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley talked about how hard it was going to be for both him and head coach Brad Stevens to accept his minutes restriction.

The 6-foot-2 guard, returning to the lineup after missing 18 straight games with a right Achilles injury, logged just under 15 minutes (14:58) on Monday while scoring six points on 2-for-4 shooting as well as tallying a game-high three steals.

“I wish I played a little bit more,” Bradley said following the game. “But it felt good to be out there.”

Stevens had similar thoughts on Bradley’s limited return.

“Both Avery and I, we were both like, maybe five more minutes or six more minutes,” Stevens said. “But the plan going in was to play him through that first half, hopefully two good stints, about 15 minutes, and then increase that piece by piece over the next few games.”

Despite the long layoff, Bradley looked very much like the Avery Bradley that was playing at a near All-Star level prior to the injury.

You figure even with the long lay-off, Bradley’s defense was going to be close to where it was earlier this season.

But the fact that he was able to quickly get into a nice shooting rhythm – he made his first shot attempt – was indeed a pleasant surprise to him.

“I’ve been able to just get shots up and I was a little nervous to see how it was going to translate in the game,” Bradley said. “But I felt comfortable out there. I just tried to focus on defense and I told myself if I focus on defense I’ll make shots on the offensive end.”

Prior to the injury, Bradley was averaging 17.7 points per game which was second on the team, along with a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game.

With his minutes being limited for at least this first week, there’s no telling how long it will take for Bradley to start posting those numbers again.

But Monday was a great first step in the right direction for a player whose talents will be essential for the Celtics to have the kind of finish to the regular season that they want going into the playoffs.

While building up towards being at the top of his game is certainly a goal Bradley has for himself, patience, trusting the rehabilitation process while maxing out his production with a small window of playing time, are all keys to his recovery.

“I wish it was split up or something in the second half but it is what it is,” said Bradley, referring to his playing time being limited to 15 or so minutes now. “I just have to go out there, no matter how many minutes I get, and play as hard as I can. That has to be my mindset.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas 'not worried' about end of scoring streak

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas 'not worried' about end of scoring streak

BOSTON – You knew sooner or later, Isaiah Thomas’ impressive scoring streak of games with 20 or more points had to come to an end.

That time was Monday night as Thomas had 19 points in Boston’s 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

While the Hawks certainly played well defensively against Thomas and the rest of the Celtics, the 5-foot-9 guard is quick to acknowledge that the Hawks didn’t all of a sudden come up with a game plan that can shut him down.

“They didn’t do anything special,” said Thomas after missing 17 of his 21 shot attempts. “I just missed a lot of shots in the paint that I usually make. I got to where I wanted to, but that wasn’t just me it was our team. We missed a lot of shots that we usually make and you got to tip your hat off to the Atlanta Hawks.”

In doing so, Thomas’ franchise-record streak of consecutive games with 20 or more points now stands at 43.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens saw first-hand how his players – including Thomas – missed a lot of shots they usually make.

But limiting Boston offensively always starts with how you defend Thomas.

“They were really aggressive on him,” Stevens said. “They were really tough on him. They bodied him up, they were physical, they had a bunch of different guys on him at different times, they were very active off of the screens.”

And as far as his streak of games with at least 20 points, Thomas said he’s not disappointed that it has come to an end.

“I’ll break it again,” he said. “I’m not worried about it, I’ll break it.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game which ended with a 114-98 Celtics loss to Atlanta.

 

STARS

Dennis Schroder

He was arguably the biggest difference-maker on the floor Monday night. In addition to doing an exceptional job defending Isaiah Thomas, he also led the Hawks with 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting with four rebounds and five assists.

Dwight Howard

His ejection aside, Howard’s presence around the rim at both ends of the floor caused major problems for Boston. He finished with a double-double of 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting along with 12 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Isaiah Thomas

The Hawks did about as good a job as we’ve seen any team at defending Thomas who still managed to lead the Celtics in scoring with 19 points on 4-for-21 shooting. For a minute there, he seemed to be flirting with a quadruple-double. In addition to his 19 points, he also had seven rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers.

 

STUDS

Jaylen Brown

His play was one of the few positives for Boston. He came off the bench to score 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go with five rebounds.

Taurean Prince

Only Paul Millsap logged more minutes on Monday than Prince whose defense and rebounding were huge. He had a near double-double of eight points and 12 rebounds.

 

DUDS

Celtics’ rebounding

This could be a dud for Boston almost every game, but they were worse than usual on Monday night. Atlanta had a 55-40 advantage on the boards which contributed to them dominating points in the paint (60-34), second-chance points (20-11) and fast-break points (15-7) which was fueled by rebounds followed by quick outlet passes to players in transition.