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Avery Bradley Had Himself A Night

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The beauty of the NBA is that you don’t have to wait long for another opportunity. A poor performance can be forgotten in a matter of days. After a frustrating loss in their last game there was a black cloud over this team. People calling into radio shows with doom and gloom talk. Saying things like Terry Rozier should start, Al Horford is the same as Jared Sullinger, the Pacers are better, this team is done etc, etc.  All after just 96 minutes of basketball.

The Hornets entering this matchup were 2-0 with both wins on the road holding their opponents to under 97 a game. A team the Celtics usually beat, they do some things well that make these games competitive. For example you can’t turn them over, they rank second in the NBA so far this season at 9 per game after leading the NBA last year. Right off the bat that means that for the Celtics to win and correct the ship, they were going to have to go about it in a different way.

Here’s how they did it

The Good

– We begin with the longest tenured Celtic on the roster. The performance from Avery Bradley was important for a number of reasons. Obviously he won the game which I would say is a tad important, but I want to start with something as simple as the eye test. This is the best I’ve ever seen Avery Bradley look. His stature has improved, and the way he plays and walks around the court has a new confidence that we haven’t seen before. When you take a closer look you realize this is simply par for the course. Avery Bradley ends one season and comes back each year a better player, something new added to his game.

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It has been a ridiculous start to the season for Avery, and while things like the 67% three point shooting are obviously not sustainable, look at the rebounding and assists. There’s your new addition, especially the passing.

He put this team on his back last night for the best night in his 6 year career. The line: 11-19 (8-11 from three) 31 points 11 rebounds 4 assists in 35 minutes. The beauty of watching Avery is very rarely do the Celtics just give him the ball and tell him to go to work. His scoring opportunities are usually the result of a well executed offensive set, which means if he is going off, the Celtics are probably playing pretty good basketball.

As is his calling card, it all started in the first quarter. There is no quarter Avery excels more in, and that makes some sense since he is primarily a jump shooter who’s legs are freshest early. The Celtics had a great first quarter in this game, and they can thank Avery’s 3-5 shooting (all threes). He was everywhere, throwing up a 9/4/3 while playing the entire quarter. What made this game different was that he didn’t disappear as he is known to do after a hot start. A stellar 14 points in the fourth as well, this night was all about Avery

– It’s no surprise that the Celts bounce back and play well while also having an assist percentage of 65%. The ball didn’t stick, and everyone got involved as four of the five starters had at least three assists. When the Celtics make the correct extra pass I’m pretty sure an angel gets its wings

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– Big night for Seattle in this game because Avery wasn’t the only one who had a great performance. Ho hum just another 24/7 on 45% shooting for Isaiah. Last night was another example of Isaiah giving us the full offensive arsenal. He made a couple threes as he is prone to do, but the best part about watching Isaiah is seeing what he does to people in transition.

Coming down the right side, often times Isaiah will set his man up for a killer hesitation dribble that is virtually unstoppable Last night we got a new variation at the expense of Kemba Walker. Hey Kemba….SEE YA!

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Look at how mad Kemba is after Isaiah makes this layup. Don’t even try and say you were expecting help, Isaiah roasted you. Sometimes teams will try and trap Isaiah before he can even get a running start, and while I respect the intention, I’m not sure people realize just how shifty Isaiah can be. His center of gravity is so low it gives him incredible body control. Like this

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For the season Isaiah is averaging 24/3/6 while shooting over 50% from the field. Looking more and more like last year was certainly no mistake.

– Another game, another respectable shooting performance! I’ll never ever complain about 48%, in fact it downright makes me giddy. Throw in the fact that the Celtics won the rebounding battle (now the second time in three games), all the sudden things shouldn’t seem so bad!

– It might not seem this way if you just look at the box score, but Al Horford had a huge impact on this game. The Celtics did a good job of mixing up how they used the big man, sometimes running P&R, sometimes letting him spot up from the FT lines, and one time trusting him to take and make a huge corner three. Something tells me nobody as mad at him after that shot like they were against Chicago. For a guy who I was told doesn’t really protect the rim, he had two more blocks last night and is averaging over 2 a game for the year.

– Before the game Jae Crowder was adamant about not getting punk’d in this game, and he took it upon himself to set the tone early. He made the first three of the game (and finished with three), and when I say he was everywhere, I mean he was absolutely everywhere. Having trouble rebounding? Ok Jae stepped up and grabbed nine. Having tough time defending? He threw up two steals and three blocks. Having trouble on offense? He had four assists. I often hear Celtics fans overvalue Crowder and what he brings, and after nights like this all I can do is shake my head.

– How about that Jordan Mickey!! Finally gets some minutes and makes an instant impact. He was active on the glass, he extended a possession that lead to a three, and he even scored! Huge debut.

– Weird that after playing the entire fourth against Chicago, Jaylen sat the entire first and still made an impact. Games like this are why I think it will be tough for him to win ROY, because he played just 15 minutes. He’s at about 18mpg which ranks him 8th among rookies, but he trails only Joel Embiid in points per game, and is shooting 58% from the field. This is possible because Brad is using Jaylen perfectly. He isn’t having him camp out on the wing and hoist contested threes, instead he’s putting him on the block where he can take an open 10 footer, and encouraging Jaylen to be uber aggressive and attack the rim. It’s working.

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The Bad

– Through three games, the second unit is still an issue. I am not pumped about this trend of the starters playing great and getting a lead, only to have to second unit blow it. This time it was a 14 point lead and they did it through turning the ball over 50 consecutive times to start the second quarter while going 5:40 without scoring. Smart and Olynyk really need to get back just so that the players can stop using that as an excuse and actually address this.

– Just once would I like to watch an entire quarter without being in the bonus with at least 4 minutes to go.

-It happens every time the Celtics make a couple early threes, and it happened again last night. They love to fall in love with threes. I didn’t love how the offense looked to end the half, because they were settling. We’ve learned by now that when the Celtics settle, they struggle, so the fact that they scored just 16 points in the quarter shouldn’t be a surprise.

– As bad as the officiating was, and it was bad (26-17 fouls) the Celts did put themselves in the FT hole by not attacking.

– The Celtics had a tough time with their interior passing to start this game. Sometimes being too unselfish can work against you, so while I love the thought behind it, I didn’t love the execution.

The Ugly

– I am fair. This was rough

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The Hornets should be a team that will be competing for that 3-5 seeds, so it is nice to see that the Celtics continue to have no problem dealing with them. In a small sample the Celts have the fourth best offense in the NBA this year. They lead the league in FG%, are 4th in made threes, and 4th in 3P%. All this worrying about the shooting in the offseason apparently for nothing. A rematch with Chicago is up next, something tells me the guys will be motivated.

2 down 50 to go.