Stars, studs and duds: Bradley shines at both ends of the floor

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley shines at both ends of the floor

BOSTON – Conventional wisdom tells you that in dealing with Washington’s Bradley Beal, you have to stay attached to him as much as possible with your best defender.

While that certainly was part of Avery Bradley’s plan in dealing with the Wizards sharpshooter, he knew part of his success defensively would be to hit Beal with an explosive game offensively.

And it was Bradley’s success at both ends of the floor that helped set the tone in Boston’s 110-102 victory.

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Bradley had 20 points for Boston (45-26) which now leads the Wizards (42-28) by 2.5 games for the No. 2 seed in the East and trail East-leading Cleveland (46-23) by 2.0 games.

Although this was the fourth and final regular season meeting between these two, Bradley had missed the two previous games due to an Achilles injury.

“He was motivated; you could tell in his eye he wanted this game,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He was ready and he was the spark for us at the beginning.”

Bradley scored Boston’s first five points, and seven the team’s first 14 before finishing with an 11-point first quarter.

A First Team All-NBA Defensive Team member last season, Bradley continues to prove that there’s more to his game than just locking up players defensively.

“Avery, obviously, is a leader in that (playing great defense),” Stevens said. “And then he came out and made those first few shots, made some really tough shots off screens, and as much as you have to chase Brad (Beal) around we wanted to run our guys around a little bit too and I thought he (Bradley) set a good tone for us.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

He didn’t have the big fourth quarter scoring the ball that fans are accustomed to, but Thomas did plenty of good things in his return to the Celtics lineup after missing two games with a knee injury. He had a game-high 25 points with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Bradley Beal

The plan was to make him a volume scorer, which is exactly what the Celtics did. He finished with a team-high 19 points but did so on 6-for-15 shooting along with five turnovers.

Avery Bradley

Arguably the biggest difference-maker of the game, Bradley’s ability to score right out the gates coupled with his rock-solid defense propelled Boston to one of their biggest wins of the season. Bradley had 20 points on 8-f0r-16 shooting with nine rebounds and four assists.

 

STUDS

Celtics rebounding

Normally an area of concern, Boston absolutely dominated the Wizards like we’ve seldom seen them do against any opponent. Boston out-rebounded Washington 54-39 but just as significant, hauled in a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. It was the first time since Game 2 of their 2009 first-round playoff series against Chicago that the Celtics grabbed 20 or more rebounds and came away with a win.

Brandon Jennings

On a night when so many Wizards struggled, Jennings was one of the few positives. He finished with 10 points to go with seven assists off the bench.

Jae Crowder

Yet another strong night for Crowder, his defense and overall presence were critical to Boston’s big win. He had 16 points and nine rebounds in addition to tallying three steals with one blocked shot.

Al Horford

He continues to provide a little bit of everything the Celtics need, stuffing the stat sheet in several categories. He had 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, along with grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out five assists to go with a pair of blocked shots.

Celtics bench

Tyler Zeller didn’t play much, but his physical play seemingly set the tone for a monster night rebounding for the Celtics. Kelly Olynyk had a near double-double of nine points and a season-high 11 rebounds. And while Marcus Smart was visibly frustrated by some of the calls and non-calls by the referees, he came up with one of the biggest plays – a steal in the fourth quarter – that was critical to the win. Essentially every player head coach Brad Stevens turned to off the bench, came up and delivered in some fashion.

 

DUDS

John Wall

He never got into any kind of flow all game, seemingly alternating between miscues and missed shots. He finished with 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting. And while he had a team-high eight assists, he also turned the ball over five times.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Wizards in a game with huge playoff-seeding implications. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Suns preview: Boston focused on Phoenix, not playoff standings

Celtics-Suns preview: Boston focused on Phoenix, not playoff standings

BOSTON – Brad Stevens spent time talking to his team on Thursday about what everyone around them will be talking about between now and the playoffs – catching Cleveland. 

After Boston’s 109-100 win over Indiana and Cleveland’s 126-113 loss at Denver on Wednesday, the Celtics (46-26) are now just one game behind the Cavs (46-24) for the best record in the East. The Celtics hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against Phoenix which is coming off a 126-98 loss at Brooklyn on Thursday night.

As cool as landing that top seed overall in the East would be for the Celtics, Stevens is well aware that it can be a huge distraction that impacts their chances negatively in continuing to play good basketball and rack up wins if there's too much attention paid to it. 

“What we need to focus on is preparing for our next opponent,” Stevens said. “Our focus needs to be on Phoenix, not on anything else.”

The Celtics have already experienced the downside of what can happen if you pay too close attention to playoff positioning. 

Earlier this month, Boston began losing ground as the second-best team in the East to Washington, which eventually moved ahead of Boston briefly during a stretch in which the Celtics lost three of four games. 

“All we did was look at the standings, everyone looking at the standings,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “But we were losing games; we weren’t focused. We came together as a group, and said we can’t worry about where we are. Let’s worry about that when the time is right. Right now, we need to focus on every game and focus on getting better as a team.”

While that may be the Celtics’ collective purpose right now, it's hard to imagine that Boston can completely look past the fact that they can wind up with the best record in the East despite all the injuries, illnesses and stretches of inconsistent play they have had this season.

At least one player – Isaiah Thomas – has no plans of trying to ignore what’s happening around the NBA in regards to other team’s playoff position and how that relates to the Celtics who are focused on finishing with at least one of the top-two seeds in the East. 

“That’s the ultimate goal; get the best seed you possibly can whatever that is,” Thomas said. “We have a chance at number one, we’re a game behind them (Cavaliers). But at the same time, we just have to control what we can and worry about the things we can control and not worry about if Cleveland wins or loses.”

For Boston, the blueprint for success has already been laid out in these final 10 games, most (seven) of which are against teams that are .500 or worst record-wise.

“Just playing the same kind of basketball we played (against Indiana on Wednesday),” said Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. “Just hard on both ends of the floor, play together on both ends of the floor; just Celtics basketball.”

The Celtics might also have some added motivation against the Suns who beat them 109-106 as time expired earlier this season.

With the score tied at 106 with a few ticks left on the game clock, Thomas mishandled the in-bounds pass from Jae Crowder, resulting in the loose ball winding up in the hands of rookie Tyler Ulis who drained a game-winning 3-pointer. 

“It was a tough loss,” Thomas acknowledged. “But I’m the type of guy whether it’s good or bad, I forget about it the next day; I try to if I possibly can. That was a crazy ending, but things happen in the NBA. You just have to move on.”