BOSTON — Avery Bradley missed two games due to a minor calf injury last week, and it might have been the best thing that happened to him all season.
Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens elected to bring Bradley off the bench upon his return — starting Isaiah Thomas in his place — in part to ease the shooting guard back into action.
The switch worked wonders for Bradley’s game. He has averaged 18.5 points per game in four contests as the first player off Boston’s bench, and knocked down a season-high 10 shots on 13 attempts to lead all scorers with 21 points in the Celtics’ blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
So what’s been the reason for Bradley’s success? Has his “demotion” made him play with an extra chip on his shoulder?
“At the end of the day, I can’t control if I start or come off the bench,” Bradley said. “I’ve just got to go out there and play hard for my team and continue to be positive. That’s the most important thing.”
A further look into Bradley’s current role, though, reveals it’s been quite the desirable position for Boston of late. Thomas was the Celtics’ leading scorer last season despite not starting a single game, and he averaged 22.3 points as a reserve through Boston’s first three contests this season before taking over for an injured Marcus Smart in the starting five.
Coming off the bench has its advantages, as it usually allows a talented scorer to avoid some of the other team’s starters and go to work against opposing benches. As far as Stevens is concerned, though, players like Bradley and Thomas have the capability to produce in any situation.
“I think (Bradley is) a good player whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Stevens said. “I don’t really think it’s anything in particular with when he’s playing in the game. I just think, for whatever reason, he’s in a nice groove right now.
“I said before the game, I like (Bradley and Thomas) coming off the bench because of the scoring pop that they give us, and sometimes you really need that. And (Bradley has) given it to us now in four straight games.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) drives the ball against Brooklyn Nets guard Sergey Karasev (10) during the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Nets 120-95.
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