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Avery Bradley at work vs. the 76ers.Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett deservingly attracted most of the postgame headlines after the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of Eastern Conference semifinal series on Saturday. But Avery Bradley's efforts shouldn't go overlooked.
Bradley made no less than two stellar defensive plays in the final minutes to aid the Celtics in completing their rally from a double-digit hole to steal Game 1 at TD Garden. What's more, already playing through the pain of a sore left rotator cuff, Bradley appeared to get further dinged up midway through the fourth quarter -- enough so that coach Doc Rivers and trainer Eddie Lacerte were talking on the sideline and Rivers initially motioned for Keyon Dooling to check in -- only to have Bradley wave them off.
A few moments later he was outrunning everyone on the floor to haul in a long outlet pass from Rajon Rondo and delivered a layup to aid the rally. But it was his defensive efforts, as usual, that shined brightest.
With Boston trailing by a point with about three minutes to play, the Celtics turned the ball over in the offensive end, allowing the 76ers to break out with numbers. Lou Williams dribbled up the right sideline with Thaddeus Young running down the left side of the lane on a 2-on-1 break with only Bradley to defend. Williams elected to keep the ball and go up for a layup, launching from the right blocks, but Bradley went up with him and smothered the attempt with both arms. The Celtics went the other way with the ball and Kevin Garnett's and-1 layup put Boston out front by two.
On Philadelphia's ensuing possession, Bradley stripped Williams as he tried to drive into the lane. Paul Pierce corralled the steal and got it in the hands of Rondo, who set up a little pick-and-pop that led to Garnett knocking down a 17-footer for a four-point cushion.
"[Bradley's] defense was consistent throughout the whole night," said Dooling. "Avery made like three tremendous plays, contesting shots, blocking shots, hustling back in there. [On one-fourth quarter basket], we had a loose ball, and he even outran Rondo and was able to get the layup. He’s just a phenomenal athlete, phenomenal talent. Kid is tough as nails."
Bradley's offense blossomed at the end of the regular season, but his shot hasn't always fallen in the postseason. He was 4 of 11 for 8 points in Game 1, missing all four 3-pointers he took. But Dooling keeps encouraging him.
"His shots are going to go," said Dooling. "There were a lot of in-and-out shots. Like I told him, he’s still on fire. In-and-out, they could have gone in."