[dropcap]A[/dropcap]very Bradley stepped into the role of defensive leader and communicator over the weekend as Kevin Garnett (along with Paul Pierce and the rest of the 35-and-over crew) missed practice to rest up in preparation before another stretch of five games in seven days. According to ESPNBoston, the 22-year-old found his voice while leading a practice group with an average age of 26.2. However, on Tuesday night, Bradley let his play do the talking against the 76ers.
The young man who is widely regarded as the best on-ball perimeter defender in the NBA dropped his age in the win, finishing with 22 points, seven rebounds, and five assists as the C’s held on 109-101. This was a game that Boston absolutely had to have if they’re going to make a push for the fourth seed and earn home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. After playing once in seven days, the Celts now play five over the next week, including four on the road. And while they have won eight straight at the TD Garden (21-9 at home this season), they’ve struggled as the visiting team this season.
They came into this game with a 10-18 record on the road, but if there is any team that the Celtics should be able to handle in any building, it’s the Philadelphia 76ers. A team that was publicly berated last week by their frustrated coach- Doug Collins- after losing their sixth straight with a subpar effort against the awful Orlando Magic. A franchise that is completely distracted and utterly demoralized after trading key rotational players for a young seven-footer who has yet to play a game this season due to his balky knees. In other words, a team that shouldn’t have much fight left after they get hit in the mouth.
Although the C’s led by as many as 15 and won the rebounding battle 49-45, they showed some flaws in a narrow victory. When they could have closed the 76ers out and rested some of their veterans, they allowed Philly to close the third quarter on a 6-0 run and make it a close game at 79-74. Boston’s defense was porous at times, they allowed 19 offensive rebounds, and committed a season-high 22 turnovers. They were only able to overcome these mistakes by shooting a solid 50.6 percent from the field and a startling 57.9 percent from three-point range.
Bradley’s performance (10-15 from the field, 2-4 from downtown) was an indispensable part of this win as the Celtics shot well enough to hold the opposition at bay. Pierce had an excellent shooting night as well (6-10 field goals, 4-4 from deep) and Garnett played well with 18 points and six rebounds. Despite these two veterans combining for 11 of the C’s 22 turnovers, they were able to get out of town with a victory while playing under 30 minutes each.
It’s rough sledding for Boston over the next few games, as they travel to Indiana on Wednesday, and play a key home-game against the (currently sixth seeded) Atlanta Hawks on Friday before traveling to Oklahoma City for a Sunday afternoon game. Good thing their young leader helped them get the easy one out of the way, because they’ll need everything the veterans can muster during their next three contests.