- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- With Avery Bradley back from a five-game absence and Rajon Rondo shedding rust in the infancy of his return from a torn ACL, the Bradley/Rondo pairing -- and its lack of court time -- was a major storyline heading into Sunday's visit from the Orlando Magic.
So how did the Rondo/Bradley combo perform?
In 18 minutes of court time, the duo was plus-5, outscoring the Magic 42-37 during their time together. Maybe the most impressive aspect of the duo's day was how crisp Boston's offense was when Rondo and Bradley shared the court. Boston owned an offensive rating of 122.4 with the Rondo/Bradley combo on the court, or 20 points per 100 possessions better than the team's average for the game. Boston shot a sizzling 63.3 percent (19 of 30) during their shared floor time.
That's an encouraging glimpse, though with the usual disclaimer that it came against the basement dwelling and Jameer Nelson-less Orlando Magic. When the Rondo/Bradley combo got its most extended court time together in 2011-12, it was their work on the defensive end that shined brightest. But with the departures in recent seasons, the Celtics need Rondo and Bradley to fuel the offense as well.
"Our chemistry is fine," Rondo said of his backcourt pairing with Bradley. "He hasn’t forgotten how I play and [I haven't] forgotten how [he] plays. It’s the same." Pressed on the duo's chemistry, Rondo added, "We just know how to play the game. He knows the game of basketball. He knows when to make cuts. He’s just a smart player, and I think I’m a smart player, too."
Bradley thinks as Rondo gets healthier, it will allow the duo to pressure the ball more moving forward.
"I think it can be very good, not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end as well," said Bradley. "We play off each other on defense. When I’m tired of pressuring somebody, pretty soon Rondo is going to be able to pick them up full-court. That’s just how we play."
Coach Brad Stevens has noted that examining and molding that Rondo/Bradley combo is at the top of his to-do list over the final three months of the season.
“Huge. Huge priority for me," said Stevens. "I think that those guys seem to be, on paper, really good fits, but it’s better to see them in person. ... Their strengths fit each other well on both ends of the floor, and so hopefully that can continue to be accentuated as we get further along into that -- we add to those 30 games [they've started together during their careers].”
Over the previous 43 minutes of time together in the first games of Rondo's return, the Rondo/Bradley combo wasn't nearly as crisp. The duo's ratings (79.7 on offense; 105.8 on defense) were an eyesore. What's more, Boston shot just 30.7 percent during their time on the floor and the team was minus-20 overall.
Sunday's glimpse was far more encouraging for a potential backcourt of the future.
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