Stars, studs and duds: Avery Bradley sets the tone for Celtics vs. Bulls

Stars, studs and duds: Avery Bradley sets the tone for Celtics vs. Bulls

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics play their best defensive game of the season, shutting down the Chicago Bulls 100-80 in a game that for most of the night wasn’t even that close.

It’s also the first game since suffering a right Achilles injury in January was Avery Bradley playing in a game with no minutes restriction.

Coincidence?

Probably not.

Reflecting on Boston’s blowout win, there was no denying that Bradley’s play defensively set the tone in what was a lopsided affair from the first few minutes following the tip-off until the final horn sounded.

“He makes our defense so much better,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “It’s contagious. Jae (Crowder) plays at a high level, (Marcus) Smart and it just goes down the list.”

For Bradley, to not have any minutes restriction allowed him to be free and not worry about anything other than playing the game.

“I’m happy it’s finally done,” Bradley said. “Happy it’s behind me and now it’s time for me to just focus on the game and go out there and play as hard as I can and continue to try to find a rhythm so I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”

As well as Bradley played, the key in Sunday’s victory was the contributions made by just about every Celtic who stepped on the floor, defensively.

“To me that’s my vision for this team to go out and play hard on the defensive end every single night,” Bradley said. “We know if we play that way we have a chance every single game even if we aren’t making shots or making mistakes. Whenever the entire team is playing with that much energy on the defensive end, good things happen and that’s what happened tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.

 

STARS

Amir Johnson

His numbers – two points, four rebounds and two blocked shots – don’t do much in terms of moving the needle publicly. But Celtics players and head coach Brad Stevens pointed out how important Johnson’s rim-protection and help-side defense was in setting the tone for what was arguably Boston’s best defensive showing this season.

Isaiah Thomas

He did his damage in the first three quarters which was good enough to lead all scorers with 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting two assists and three steals.

Avery Bradley

He reminded us all why he’s considered one of the league’s best two-way players. In addition to playing some suffocating defense against Chicago’s perimeter players, Bradley also had 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six rebounds three steals and a blocked shot.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

Lots of good things happened all game with Horford on the floor. He finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting with seven rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocked shots.

Kelly Olynyk

The Celtics had a few players deliver nice bounce-back performances on Sunday, Olynyk included. He had a near double-double of 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting, with nine rebounds.

 

DUDS

Dwyane Wade

Scoring just eight points in nearly 26 minutes of court time was bad enough. Adding to what was a horrible night for Wade was the fact that the Bulls were a minus-37 when he was on the floor which ranks among the worst plus-minuses in a single game this season.

Blakely: Celtics' success lies in balancing big-money deals with bargains

Blakely: Celtics' success lies in balancing big-money deals with bargains

BOSTON – When it comes to stockpiling talent, few in the NBA have done it better in the past couple of years than the Golden State Warriors, as evidenced by them winning two of the past three NBA championships.
 
In 2015, Andre Iguodala was the NBA Finals MVP but it was the play another reserve, Festus Ezeli, who in the third quarter of the decisive Game 6, scored eight of his 10 points and helped extend a two-point halftime edge into a 12-point lead going into the fourth in what eventually was an eight-point series-clinching victory.

MORE CELTICS

 We have seen the Cleveland Cavaliers make deep playoff runs led by their Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but the contributions of youngsters such as Matt Dellavedova (now in Milwaukee) also helped.
 
Indeed, often lost in the success of title-contending teams is how they manage to have enough max-salaried talent on the roster, while also augmenting the lineup with contributions from younger players or inexpensive veterans on team-friendly contracts.
 
Balancing the best of those two worlds is among the many reasons why the Celtics are considered a legit contender to get to the NBA Finals this season out of the East.
 
A lot has been made of the team’s signing of Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million contract.

But what really makes the Celtics so special is how they have been able to add a max-salaried player each of the past two seasons (Al Horford and Hayward) at a time when the contributions of Isaiah Thomas ($6.26 million this year) and Jae Crowder ($6.8 million this season) are significant not only in terms of what they do on the floor but even more so in how little they make salary-wise relative to those contributions.
 
Boston getting the most out of talent playing on low-salary deals will be instrumental in their ability to build off the success of last season when the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2012.
 
And while the Warriors have achieved this by adding veterans on the cheap (David West), Boston has been more traditional from the standpoint of getting as much bang as they can from players on their rookie deals.
 
Boston currently has 16 players with guaranteed contracts.
 
Of that total, nine (Marcus Smart; Terry Rozier; Jaylen Brown; Ante Zizic; Abdel Nader; Jayson Tatum; Semi Ojeleye; Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele) are on their rookie contracts.
 
“You always need young guys,” Austin Ainge, the Celtics' director of player personnel, told CSNNE.com. “Your veteran guys make a lot of money and so you need some guys on rookie contracts to fill out your roster.”
 
This is especially true for teams that are in the hunt to win an NBA title.
 
Ainge recalled how the use of players on rookie deals was instrumental in Boston bringing home Banner 17 in 2008.
 
“We had [Rajon] Rondo and Kendrick Perkins and Leon Powe and Big Baby [Glen Davis] in 2008,” Ainge said. “You need guys like that. You look at the teams in the finals the past few years, they’ve got some young guys on lower money contracts contributing. That’s important.”