Rivers' dilemma: Better to start Allen or Bradley?


Rivers' dilemma: Better to start Allen or Bradley?

BOSTON Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has a dilemma of sorts on his hands now.

Ray Allen, who has missed the Celtics' last six games with a right ankle injury, is going to be healthy enough to play soon.

His replacement, Avery Bradley, seems to be getting better and more comfortable with every start.

So what does Rivers do? Put Allen back in the starting lineup when he returns, or stick with the strong play of Bradley with the first unit?

When you look at Rivers' reluctance to make any changes involving the Big Four, it would seem as though Allen's place with the starting unit is secure, right?

Not really.

Rivers acknowledged following Boston's 91-72 blowout win over Miami on Sunday that he has not made his mind up about which of the two will start when Allen returns to the lineup.

This season, the Celtics are 10-1 without Allen in the lineup, and 20-21 with him.

"We're playing well, but we've also played well with Ray, by the way," Rivers said. "I think people forget that part. The good thing is that we have options. And we have players with confidence; we have a lot of them."

The emergence of Bradley as a starter speaks to his growth this season into one of the NBA's most improved players.

He doesn't shoot the ball nearly as well as Allen, but his ability to defend seems to fit in well with the C's and their defensive mindset.

And with him now cutting to the basket often -- and Rondo finding him -- he's no longer an offensive liability when he's on the floor.

Bradley filled in for Rajon Rondo earlier this season, and the Celtics were successful.

But this stint in place of Allen has been different.

As Rondo's replacement, Bradley often deferred the play-making duties to Paul Pierce.

But in place of Allen, Bradley's clearly more comfortable at the off-guard position. And his defense, combined with Rondo's instincts for forcing turnovers by getting into passing lanes, has given the Celtics the kind of defensive-minded backcourt that the C's have not had under Rivers.

To his credit, Bradley has avoided making his newfound status with the Celtics an issue, maintaining that he plans to continue playing hard whether he's starting or coming off the bench.

"The veterans on this team have taught me so much since I've been here," Bradley told CSNNE.com. "It doesn't matter if I'm in the game at the start or coming off the bench. I just have to make sure I'm always ready to play, and when I do play, I'm helping my team win."

While Bradley has certainly played well enough to warrant the starting nod when Allen returns, folks have to remember that Allen's best play typically comes this time of year.

Bradley's defensive prowess has been impressive, but playoff games often come down to one or two big shots -- Ray Allen's specialty.

Whichever way Rivers decides to go, one thing is clear: The Celtics bench will get a boost with the addition of either player.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley explode in shootout win vs. 49ers


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley explode in shootout win vs. 49ers

Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns and Todd Gurley ran for two TDs and caught another to help the Los Angeles Rams put up another big offensive performance with a 41-39 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night.

The NFL's lowest-scoring team last year looks like a completely different outfit this season under first-year coach Sean McVay thanks to vastly improved play by Goff after a rough rookie season as the No. 1 overall pick.

The Rams (2-1) have also been helped by the additions of receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods and the play-calling of McVay as they have scored 107 points through three games. That's the second-most in franchise history, trailing only the 119 by "The Greatest Show on Turf" squad in 2000.

This win didn't come easy as the Rams nearly blew a 15-point lead, giving up two late touchdowns, fumbling a kickoff return and failing to recover an onside kick. But Los Angeles managed to stop a potential game-tying 2-point conversion and then used an offensive pass interference penalty against Trent Taylor and a fourth-down sack by Aaron Donald to stop the Niners after the onside kick.

The 49ers (0-3) scored five touchdowns after failing to get any the first two weeks but still came up short in part because a missed extra point by Robbie Gould forced them to try for 2 on their late touchdown.

This time it was a tired defense that hurt San Francisco. After facing 79 plays in a 12-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers appeared to run out of gas on the short week as Goff frequently had wide-open receivers, especially on third down.

All three of Goff's touchdown passes came on third down, including a 13-yard pass to Watkins early in the fourth quarter that gave Los Angeles a 41-26 lead.

The Rams needed all that offense on a night where Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

QUICK START: The Rams took just 12 seconds to get on the board as Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted Hoyer on the first play from scrimmage and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it in on the next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

DROUGHT BUSTER: The 49ers came into the game without a touchdown on the season but broke through in the first quarter with some help from the Rams. After Blake Countess jumped offside on a punt, the Niners took advantage of the second opportunity and drove to score on Hoyer's 9-yard run 126:43 into the season. That was the longest it took a team to score its first TD since 2006 when both Tampa Bay (143:03) and Oakland (127:10) took more time.

FOURTH DOWN CALLS: Both teams drove to the opposing 1 on their opening drives of the second half with help from a Willie Mays-style basket catch by Watkins and a perfect toe drag on the sideline by San Francisco's Pierre Garcon. But the Rams opted to kick a short field goal, while the 49ers went for it and converted on Carlos Hyde's 1-yard run that cut Los Angeles' lead to 27-20. Hyde added a second 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES: Rams S Lamarcus Joyner left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Los Angeles C John Sullivan injured his groin in the second half and Watkins and Tavon Austin left with concussions. ... 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), FB Kyle Juszczyk (neck), DL Tank Carradine (ankle) and LB Brock Coyle (concussion) all left with injuries in the second half.

UP NEXT: The Rams travel to Dallas on Oct. 1. The 49ers visit Arizona.


More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP-NFL

Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?


Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?


0:41 - Tom E. Curran breaks down the ‘blueprint’ to beat the Patriots and if the Texans have the talent to do it.

5:27 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving’s comments that he made on Early Edition about going back to Cleveland for the opening game. 

9:52 - We take a listen to what Malcolm Butler had to say about his role on the team and discuss how the cornerback keeps saying all the right things. 

15:18 - Michael McCann, Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated joins BST to talk about Aaron Hernandez’s brain found to have CTE and his family now suing the NFL and the Patriots.