Bradley defense key to Game 5 victory
BOSTON — Avery Bradley has been doing all the little things to get the Boston Celtics over the hump this postseason.
Yes, he created a buzz with his playoff-career high 29 points to give Boston a 3-2 lead over the Washington Wizards while backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas was facing double- and triple-teams during Game 5.
But it's been Bradley's consistency on defense during the first two rounds that has the topseeded Celtics on the verge of an Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite playing after suffering his second hip pointer injury of the series, Bradley annoyed Wizards' point guard John Wall throughout.
The primary defender on Wall, he helped hold Washington's All-Star to just 21 points and 17 field goal attempts. He also limited him to a playoff-low four assists — well below Wall's playoff average of 11.1. In Boston's three wins, Wall has a plus/minus of minus-17.
“Avery's the best on-the-ball defender in the NBA — hands down,” Thomas said. “A guy like John Wall you're not gonna stop.He does a hell of a job on him. He makes it tough. Nothing's easy. And that's what Avery Bradley does, each and every night.”
Bradley said he was inspired by text messages he got from Thomas and Celtics' television play-by-play man Mike Gorman.
“They told me they felt like it was going to be a big game for me,” Bradley said of his Game 5 performance. “My mindset was just to come out and be aggressive. I wanted to make those guys work on both ends of the floor.”
In a perimeter-oriented NBA in which rim protecting big men are a dwindling luxury, guards like Bradley who are willing to dedicate themselves on the defensive end are a commodity. He's 6-foot-2, but has enough length to bother shooters, the lateral quickness to keep opponents in front of him and the strength not to get bullied.
In Boston's three wins Bradley has constantly crowded Wall, tormenting him with an assortment of stabs and pokes at the ball, while also cutting off his driving lanes.
Part of the reason is that Bradley is playing so inspired is that he is coming off a truncated 2016 postseason.
His playoff run lasted all of one game last season thanks to a hamstring injury in the opening game of Boston's firstround matchup with Atlanta.
He's made the most of being healthy this time around.