AB's Fiery Start Ignites C's to Fourth-Straight Win

BOSTON – When the Boston Celtics open up a game sluggishly, they seem to have a reliable solution: Put the ball in Avery Bradley’s hands.

After starting 0-for-4 from the field during the first two minutes of Wednesday night’s contest against the Denver Nuggets, that’s exactly who the C’s turned to get things going offensively.

Bradley scored the game’s first points at the 9:59 mark of the first quarter, when he snagged a loose ball on the defensive end and took it coast-to-coast for a reverse layup.

And that was just the beginning for him.

The sixth-year guard notched 13 of Boston’s first 19 points during a five-minute and nine-second span, in which he shot 5-of-6 from the field, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. He personally outscored the entire Nuggets team, 13-11, by the 4:50 mark of the opening frame.

That fiery first quarter effort accounted for nearly half of Bradley's season-high-tying 27 points, and provided Boston a lead it would never relinquish, en route to a 111-103 win.

Wednesday's hot start did not come as a surprise, as Bradley, who was unavailable for comment following the game, has delivered time and time again during first quarters this season.

“Collectively as a group we want to get off to a good start,” Isaiah Thomas said after the game. “Night in and night out he’s a guy that just for some reason plays very well in the first quarters. He hits shots and he gets us going defensively as well, so he’s a guy that we really depend on a lot.”

The numbers certainly back up that claim. Bradley has scored Boston’s first basket 36 percent of the time this season (unofficially, per @kanzaki_sol).

Oftentimes you’ll see him open up a game by curling around a screen and pulling up for a mid-range jumper – a shot that has become a deadly weapon in his loaded offensive arsenal.

“At the beginning of the game, to set the tone offensively is a big thing,” said Evan Turner. “And when he gets going, that opens up everything else because he flies by those screens 100 miles per hour and somewhat keeps the other team on their heels.”

Brad Stevens, of course, is fully aware of Bradley’s tendencies, so the coach will often call his number for set plays following timeouts.

“We have multiple options on some of those ATOs at the start of the game and Avery’s one of our good options to create a shot off an action,” said Stevens.

The first quarter is hands down Bradley’s most efficient shooting quarter, especially from long-range. He has made 33 of his 73 3-point attempts (45.2 percent) during opening frame, compared to 53-of-162 (32.7 percent) during the remaining three quarters.

Those hot starts not only set the tone for the Celtics; they also open up opportunities for his teammates because opposing teams are forced to hone in on him early in an effort to cool him down.

Boston’s leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas, said that he benefits when Bradley starts off on fire, because “The defense can’t really eye on me as much as they want to.”

The pair often bookend games with Bradley’s boost at the beginning and Thomas’ timely scoring at the end.

Thomas often gets the majority of the praise following wins as he regularly seals the deal with clutch performances during the fourth quarter. But what can’t be forgotten is how they got there in the first place.

While a finisher is quintessential to an NBA team’s success, so is the kick-starter who is responsible for igniting the initial flame.

Fortunately, when the Celtics need that spark to open things up, they can rely upon Bradley to do so.

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