Bradley Torches Raps in Brief Yet Dominant Performance

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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TORONTO – When Avery Bradley catches fire, you better watch out.

Oops. Sorry, Raptors. That warning came a little bit late.

Bradley singed the Air Canada Centre’s nets Friday night as he put together Boston’s top performance of the preseason to date. He scored a Celtics preseason-high 22 points, 17 in the second quarter alone, while canning nine of his 15 shots and four of his five 3-pointers.

“It felt good tonight to be able to make shots and get to my spots,” Bradley said after the game. “I felt really comfortable out there playing with my teammates tonight.”

Comfortable? That’s an understatement, especially when considering the fact that Bradley did what he did in less than 21 minutes of action.

Let that sink in. Bradley led the game in scoring, field goals made and 3-pointers made in less than 21 minutes of action. Less than 21 minutes! Just imagine what he could have done had he played 30-plus minutes, which is the norm.

Rather than concentrating on what could have been, let’s concentrate on what was. Bradley made the best of his limited playing time by employing a heightened level of aggression. He knew he was feeling it, so he kept on letting it fly from his most comfortable areas of the floor.

“Certain spots on that 3-point line and my mid-range game, getting to the free-throw line,” Bradley said, rattling off his favorite shooting zones on the court. “I know if I can get there and go hard, I have a chance to make every single shot so the contender’s not contesting.”

That’s pretty much how things went during the first half of this game. Bradley hit his 3s in rhythm. He created shots off of the dribble. He did everything Stevens could have asked of him at the offensive end.

But let’s not forget that this performance couldn’t have happened without the assistance of Bradley’s teammates. The team’s top two ball handlers, Marcus Smart and Evan Turner, saw that he was in the zone. They’re smart guys. They knew exactly what to do.

“I’m trying to get him the ball,” said Smart. "Get it back to him. We ran the same play over and over a couple of times for him because they couldn’t stop him. The old saying, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’”

Added Turner, “We’ll cater to him in those situations where he is hot, along with anybody else. Sometimes you kind of get out of his way and let him work.”

Great decisions by both men. The only problem is that on this night, he wasn’t allowed to do enough work.

Brad Stevens made the decision to cut into Bradley’s workload. The coach had decided before the game that Bradley would only log about 20 minutes of action. Bradley used nearly all of them up in the first half when he caught fire.

“Avery got going in the second quarter and I probably would have taken him out based on my pregame thoughts as far as total number of minutes I wanted each guy to play,” Stevens explained, “but I just decided that I was going to give him those minutes in that quarter because he got going.”

Stevens barely allowed Bradley to sniff the floor after that. Bradley logged only three minutes and 45 seconds of playing time during the final two quarters.

Without Bradley’s services, the Celtics faded from the Raptors. Bradley was forced to keep his hot hand on the sideline knowing that he may have been able to shoot his team back into the game.

“I wish I could’ve stayed in there the third quarter,” Bradley said with a smile, “but I’m going to do whatever’s best for the team and tonight it was me going on the bench and cheering for my teammates.”

This may not have been best for the Celtics tonight, but it will be best for them in the long run. Stevens has set Bradley up to be fresh for the remainder of preseason, all while preserving some of that heat for the games that really count.