Bradley, Celtics fall short against Grizzlies, lose 93-83

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Bradley, Celtics fall short against Grizzlies, lose 93-83

BOSTON The long-awaited return of Avery Bradley was one in which the third-year guard delivered a good but not great performance -- the kind that his Celtics brethren have been providing all season.
He had four points in 19 minutes, and his play and defensive intensity were certainly welcomed by the C's and to a certain degree, felt by the Memphis Grizzlies. 
But against a team as good as Memphis is this season, even a solid performance by Bradley wasn't enough as the Grizzlies defeated the C's 93-83.
It was Boston's 12th double-digit loss this season, a scary reality when you consider there's still more than half a season left to play. 
While the Celtics came in well aware that a number of players would have to step up, all eyes - and expectations - were on Bradley who had not played in an NBA game since the Eastern Conference semifinals in May against Philadelphia. 
Since then, Bradley underwent surgery to both shoulders with Wednesday's game being his first this season. 
"Honestly, with him on the floor early on, I thought the whole defense looked pretty good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Said Bradley: "It felt good to be out there. I'm just trying to play as hard as I can, and I feel like everything's going to be come together as a teanm. I feel like we played hard tonight."
For the Celtics, losers of four in a row, that would indeed be a step in the right direction.
Far too often this season, the C's have looked as though their effort to compete let alone win, wasn't nearly as high as their opponents which has been a factor in most of their losses being of the blowout variety. 
And that to some extent, has had an impact on the team's confidence which seems to fade in and out in most games. 
"It's hard to be confident when you are struggling," said Boston's Paul Pierce who had a team-high 17 points against the Grizzlies. "The good thing about it is we're staying positive about this stretch. It's a tough stretch for us obviously and we know we are going to get through it."
If so, they'll have to find ways to compete for longer stretches of time. Those ebbs and flows are especially problematic in the first half of games which tend to put the C's in catch-mode for the rest of the night. 
On Wednesday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 18 points before they were able to cut Memphis' lead down to five points following back-to-back 3s by Jason Terry that made it an 83-78 game with 4:52 to play. 
But having dug themselves such a deep hole early proved too much for them to fully come back from as some of the team's most reliable scorers -- like Kevin Garnett -- came up short from the free throw line in the fourth quarter while others failed to knock down pressure-packed shots with the shot clock winding down. 
It was the kind of late-game struggles that you would not expect from a team of veterans, some of whom have won championships both in Boston and elsewhere. 
"We didn't play like a veteran team," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We played like a really young team that was rushed. And that's what happens when you're not winning games as well."
As the final minutes were played out, the Grizzlies came up with all the big shots and clutch defensive plays to get the victory.
And with the loss, Boston (14-17) extends its losing streak to four in a row. 
And the worst part for the Celtics?
It won't get any easier with Indiana at the Garden and Atlanta on the road Friday and Saturday, respectively. 
While Bradley's presence didn't do much in terms of limiting the Grizzlies shooters, the C's were able to force six turnovers in the first that led to 10 points and maybe most important, the Celtics did something they hadn't done since Christmas -- lead after a quarter of play. 
A driving lay-up by Courtney Lee in the final seconds of the first quarter gave the Celtics a 26-25 lead to end the quarter which snapped a 12 quarter streak in which the C's had to play from behind. 
Boston's slim lead remained on the skinny jean side of things through the early stages of the second quarter. 
As they have done so many times this season, Boston went through a mini-lull offensively and the Celtics defense, even with Bradley, was unable to slow the bleeding as Memphis pulled ahead by six points (39-33) following a 3-pointer by Darrell Arthur.
Arthur's basket was part of a 21-8 run by the Memphis that catapulted them to a comfortable 50-41 halftime lead. 
The third quarter was more of the same as the Grizzlies dominated play at both ends of the floor which fueled them to continue surging ahead and taking a 75-59 lead into the fourth quarter that would prove to be too much for the C's to overcome ... again. 
But going forward, the Celtics will have Bradley back in the mix which in time should help significantly improve their defense and with that, should put a few more W's in the win column for the Green team. 
"He's going to slowly work his way back," Pierce said. "And get his legs in game shape and have a real impact out there for us on both ends of the court. He's been going through a lot, with the surgeries all summer, to finally get a chance in the new year to get back out there, I think he was real anxious and excited to be out there."
Said Bradley: "My main focus is to just go out there and play hard. I feel everything else will work its way out if I just do that."

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

There will be some that will absolutely crucify the Bruins for losing Colin Miller in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and rail against an asset that was lost for nothing. Those people will also miss the absolutely essential point that the whole raison d’etre for an expansion draft is to remove assets from each of the 30 NHL teams, and do it without a cost for the benefit of the new franchise opening up shop in Las Vegas.

It could have been much worse for the Black and Gold as some teams were shipping first round picks to Vegas to shelter their own players from expansion selection, and other teams were losing essential players like James Neal, Marc Methot and David Perron from their respective rosters. The B’s didn’t entertain overpaying simply to avoid losing a useful player, and clearly, they did lose a talented, still undeveloped player in the 24-year-old Miller, who now may be flipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a side deal with Vegas.

But let’s be honest here. A whole lot of people are vastly overestimating a player in Miller that’s long on tools and very short on putting them together, and they’re also vastly underestimating Kevan Miller. The younger Miller can skate like the wind and has a bazooka of a shot when he winds up and fires his clapper at the net.

But despite those clear offensive talents, Colin had the same number of points as stay-at-home defenseman Kevan this season despite the bigger, stronger and older Miller playing three less games this season. Kevan also had more goals (five) and more points (18) than Colin did two years ago in his rookie season for Boston.

This isn’t to say that Colin doesn’t have more discernible offensive skill than Kevan when it comes to moving the puck or creating offense. He does, but all that talent hasn’t manifested into real points, real offense or anything else for the Black and Gold over the last couple of seasons. At a certain point, a prospect like Colin needs to put all the tools together into production on the ice if he wants to become the sum of his hockey parts, and that hasn’t happened in two full seasons in Boston.

Instead, Miller continues to struggle with decision-making with the puck, consistency and finding ways to turn the quality skating and shot package into any kind of playmaking on the ice. Miller had his challenges defensively and he was never going to be the most physical guy on the ice, but those could have been overlooked if he was lighting it up in the offensive zone on a regular basis.

Plain and simple that wasn’t happening, and over the last season 20-year-old Brandon Carlo and 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy passed Miller on the organizational depth chart for right shot defenseman, and either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller would slot in as the third pairing D-man on the right side. It’s clear at this point that Colin Miller needs more time and patience if he’s ever going to develop as a late-blooming defenseman at the NHL level, and he wasn’t going to get those opportunities to develop in Boston.

So how good can Colin Miller really be if he was about to get buried on a Boston defensive depth chart without much hope of being in the starting six every night unless he was able to magically transform himself into a top-4 guy on the left side?

Clearly, there is risk here as Miller could move on to Toronto, develop into the player that posted 19 goals and 52 points in the AHL a couple of seasons ago and torment the Bruins for the next five-plus years. It would become another arrow in the quiver of those critics looking to hammer GM Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely at every turn, and it would generate massive “Why can’t we get players like that?” homages to the legendary Bob Lobel all across New England.    

But there’s just as good a chance that Kevan Miller will still be throwing hits and soaking up heavy minutes of ice time for the Bruins three years down the road, and that Colin Miller will be out of the league after never harnessing together his considerable talent. Perhaps Sweeney could have been better about securing an asset for Miller ahead of the expansion draft if he knew he was going to lose that player for nothing to Vegas.

The bottom line is that the Bruins were going to lose somebody to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, and the Golden Knights weren’t going to do them any favors by taking on misfit toys like Jimmy Hayes, Malcolm Subban or Matt Beleskey. They did instead lose a player with plenty of raw talent in Colin Miller, but it’s not exactly somebody that’s going to be missed in Boston once Carlo and McAvoy start showing just how bright the B’s future is on the back end starting next season.