Open Practice Ends with Game-Winner by Bradley

BOSTON – It may have only been an open practice for the Boston Celtics tonight at the TD Garden, but it sure felt like a preseason game.

And that was exactly the goal.

The Celtics have had zero practice time with a full roster over the past week, which made Doc Rivers choose to turn the Garden into full-scale game mode tonight. He split his roster into two teams and then watched them scrimmage in a game night atmosphere, including a national anthem, starting lineups, dancer performances, and hired referees.

Thousands of fans were in attendance to watch the game despite the fact that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett didn’t participate. However, those two were still in attendance, and they caught a good one.

The White team came out of the gates firing on all cylinders thanks to big first-half performances by Ray Allen and newly acquired Brandon Bass.

Allen scored the first points of the game with a drive to the bucket from the left wing, which he finished with an easy layup. He finished the half with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, including one of his patented 3-pointers.

Bass racked up his numbers in a different fashion. He’s advertised as a hustle player who will bang under the basket and also hit the open jumper. He did nothing tonight to disprove that reputation.

Flying all over the court for loose balls and throwing pump fake after pump fake, Bass was able to rack up 10 points and four boards in the first half. He played all 12 minutes and finished the half making four of his seven shots.

While those two players were performing well offensively, their teammates were right alongside at the other end. The Green team simply couldn’t get the ball in the basket against the White’s defense and finished the first half shooting just 35 percent from the floor. The White team took a 29-18 lead into halftime.

Mike Longobardi, head coach of the Green team, must have given one heck of a halftime speech, because when the second half began his squad looked like a whole new group. Not only did they make this one a game, they actually eventually took the lead.

A steady combination of offense, from perimeter 3s by Keyon Dooling and E’Twaun Moore to buckets in the paint by Marquis Daniels and Chris Wilcox, turned this one into a nail-biter.

A 3-pointer by Dooling capped an 18-7 run by the Green team that tied the game up at 39-39 with just a few minutes left in the game. But the excitement in this one was just beginning at that point.

The teams traded baskets over the final few minutes and with 1:08 remaining, the White team led 44-43. Gilbert Brown tacked two points onto that lead with a jumper from the corner to make it 46-43 with 49.5 seconds left on the clock.

The Green team quickly answered back, though, with four straight points, including Avery Bradley’s fake handoff to Daniels that was followed by a driving and-one layup to give his team a one-point advantage. Bradley missed a similar shot in the final 10 seconds, but Wilcox followed it up with a rebound and putback to give the Green team a 50-48 lead with 5.1 seconds left.

As we all know, a two-point lead in the Garden is never safe for an opponent, even if it is the other half of the Celtics.

After the White team called a timeout to draw up a play, Brown inbounded the ball to rookie E’Twaun Moore along the left sideline. Moore brought the ball to his right, slightly to the right of the top of the key, and quickly pulled up for a 3-pointer. Not exactly what you’d expect from a rookie, who had Allen open nearby for his own shot, but the rook made it count. The trey dropped through the net with 0.8 seconds remaining, giving the White team a 51-50 lead and sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Everyone knew what was to come on the next play. Longobardi drew up a play for rookie JaJuan Johnson and Wilcox, with the hope of getting one of them an attempt at a lob-dunk. But when that play went awry, Avery Bradley sprinted to the corner and wound up taking the inbound pass. Luckily for him, his defender slipped behind him and Brafdey was able to get off a fadeaway jumper from the left corner.

That shot is certainly not one of the strengths of a second-year player who is known much more for his defensive capabilities and quickness with the basketball. This time, however, he looked like Michael Jordan taking a shot with the game on the line.

The ball calmly sank through the net as time expired and his teammates streaked onto the floor to congratulate him. That bucket gave the Green team a 52-51 win. Pierce ran onto the court to yell at his comrades and point out the fact that he had correctly called the fact that Bradley would hit the game-winner.

Wilcox finished the scrimmage with game highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Green team, while Bass led the White team with 13 points and five boards. Bradley, Dooling and Daniels all played the entire 24 minutes of the contest.

In the end, the game was a complete success. Rivers rolled the dice with a new schedule for open practice, but it couldn’t have evolved any better. The crowd loved it, the players loved it, and it was incredible competition.

Several of the players mentioned after the game that it felt as if it was a real preseason contest. That’s exactly what Rivers was aiming for, but they all know the real action begins on Sunday in Toronto.