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Avery Bradley is still a work in progress offensively, but his defense has been stellar.Avery Bradley played only 10 minutes during the Celtics' 100-92 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday night -- a fact that Jordan Crawford and John Wall are probably grateful for.
Bradley's impact might seem minimal on the surface, for he hardly influenced the final box score, but it was his stifling on-the-ball defense that gave his opponents fits for portions of the night. Celtics coach Doc Rivers utilized Bradley at the end of the first and third quarters, as well as in the opening minutes of the second and final frames, and the second-year Texas product used his court time to apply full-court pressure defense on Washington's ball handlers.
"I know that's one thing that Doc wants from me, is to play my strength, play defense -- go out there and play hard," Bradley said. "So, I knew once I got in the game I needed to lift our team, lift the second unit. I knew if I played defense like I could, it would lift everybody else up, and it did. It lifted our energy."
Bradley had Crawford reeling at times, even having to take strides backwards to try and create a new angle to advance the ball. And even for Wall -- a more capable ball handler and point man than Crawford -- gaining entry to the lane to attack the rim against Bradley was no easy feat. The box score fails to take into account the sort of impact that defensive aggressiveness can have on both teams.
Playing a lockdown style of defense is something Bradley continues to take a lot of pride in.
"One thing I always used to tell myself from a young age -- because I've always been a defensive player -- is that, growing up, it was always, I would shut down my player and then outscore him," he said. "And now it's just, whenever they get the ball, my goal is for them not to score on me. And so, that's how I look at it. I play as hard as I can, and I do whatever I can do to help my team get a win."
For the short term, it will be Bradley's defense that gets him on the court, while he continues to develop his offense and becomes more of a threat on that end of the floor. Due to limited minutes, it isn't necessarily fair to analyze Bradley's offensive numbers, but it's still apparent that he has improvements to make. When he's played alongside Keyon Dooling and other guards, he usually plays off the ball, as opposed to serving as that unit's primary ball handler. And when he does bring the ball up, he's responsible for creating very little of the team's offense -- like on Monday in the fourth quarter, when his job was to advance the ball and dish it to Marquis Daniels or Kevin Garnett.
But that doesn't mean things can't still develop -- Bradley's confidence on the offensive end, his shot selection, and Rivers' faith in him to eventually call the plays for the second unit. Lately, there have been flashes of offensive potential from Bradley. On Sunday in Washington, Bradley produced a slick drive down the lane and an even nicer dish to Greg Stiemsma, only to have Stiemsma fail to convert the layup. And those flashes of aggressiveness were witnessed in Monday's win, as well.
For now, though, Bradley will continue focusing on the defense that he should ultimately be judged by.
"I feel like everybody doesn't have an offensive game going every time," Bradley said. "Sometimes you're off on offense -- off shots, you're just having a bad day. Defense, I feel like you can never have a bad day. Because if you go hard on defense, you're going to be successful. One thing I used to always tell myself is get my defense to get my offense going. Unfortunately I haven't been making shots, but I know my defense is what I do good, so it just helps build my confidence. I don't feel like I'm just out there on the floor not doing anything."