WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was not on the floor with his teammates as they gathered for the start of Thursday's practice and was spotted soon after leaving a medical area of the team's training center. A Celtics spokesman said only that Bradley participated in the afternoon session and offered no explanation for his tardiness.
While Bradley's late arrival raised eyebrows, all indications are he's still expected to be on the floor for Game 3 of an Eastern Conference first-round series against the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Bradley underwent surgery on both shoulders after being forced out of the playoffs due to injury last season. Despite missing the first 30 games of the 2012-13 campaign, he played in the final 50 regular-season contests.
Bradley is averaging 10.5 points and 3 assists over 34.5 minutes per game this postseason. Before Thursday's practice session, Celtics coach Doc Rivers talked about the difficult position that Bradley has been thrust into as top-unit point guard since Rajon Rondo was lost for the season in late January with a torn ACL.
"It’s a hard role for Avery," said Rivers. "We talk about [increased responsibilities for] Paul [Pierce], but we’re asking Avery to pressure, pressure, pressure, and then try to do something that he’s not. Avery’s a good basketball player, but we never wanted him to be in the position of facilitating offense, seeing that guys aren’t set, and trying to get guys in the right spots, delivering the pass on target -- a lot of that. We’re asking a lot, we understand that."
The Celtics are the first team in the shot-clock era (starting with the 1954-55 season) to score 25 or fewer points in the second half of consecutive games in either the regular season or playoffs, according to Elias Sports Bureau. What's more, Boston's two-game output of just 149 points is the second-fewest points they've scored over any two-game span in their postseason history (topped only by the 146 points in Games 6 and 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals vs. the Lakers). Boston will need at least 89 points in Game 3 to avoid their lowest three-game postseason total of franchise history (235 total points in 2002).
Rivers said his team's defense is connected to its offensive success.
"Well, we’ve come out flat twice [in the second half]. I don’t know why that is," said Rivers. "But they put a lot of pressure on us. Game 2... they scored a ton of points, 32 in the third quarter. We took the ball out and they pressured us. But we're not organized offensively the way we should be, in my opinion. And that’s what we have to be. You’re going to have to play some halfcourt in the playoffs and we knew that going into the series, we just haven’t handled it very well."
Read on for a few more notes from Thursday's session:
RIVERS TALKS CRAWFORD OVER LEE
Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave Jordan Crawford 25 minutes of floor time in Tuesday's Game 2 loss, while Courtney Lee was relegated to four minutes of late-game action. Rivers has explained that Crawford, with his ability to provide an offensive spark, has simply moved ahead of Lee this series.
"Right now, honestly, Jordan’s moved in front of [Lee] on the depth chart," said Rivers. "But Courtney will have a say-so in this series. And I believe that. He’s handled it great, as far as I know -- you never know. But, listen, it’s the way sports are. Guys move in front of you, move behind you, and, right now, Jordan is another guy that can give us [a spark] offensively. For us, our defense has been pretty good. So if it struggles, then Courtney is back in. The one thing that Courtney does better is he can make the spot-up shot from the corners. But right now we’re just going the other way."
Crawford scored 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting with two steals and two turnovers on Tuesday. For his part, Lee, who actually seemed to be coming on strong late in the regular season after battling an ankle injury, knows things can change back in a hurry.
"I just want to continue to do the same things I’ve been doing," said Lee. "Continue to get work in after the game. Like I said, you never know. It could change next game. It was one game. You never know."
Asked what Rivers has said to him, Lee noted, "He just said stay ready. That’s all."
C'S NEED MORE FROM RONDO IN SECOND HALF
Asked how much of a help it is having rehabbing Rondo on the bench this series, Rivers quipped, "Well, obviously in the second half he’s been awful. We need Rondo to pick up his game in the second half, along with the coaches."
Truth be told, Rivers enjoys having Rondo's keen eye and sharp mind on the bench as an extra coach and someone who can communicate with the players, especially the shoot-first guards trying to fill his role.
"[Rondo has] been good," said Rivers. "He talks to guys, he’s been great with [coaches], too. Rondo knows my offense, sometimes I think better than me. That’s the truth, too. He reminds me all the time, ‘Hey what about this, what about that?’ Sometimes I say, ‘Well, we could run it if you were in, but we can’t.’ We have a lot of dialogue during the game."
DOWN 0-2, BUZZWORD IS 'DESPERATION'
With the Celtics' backs against the wall after losing the first two games of the series, allow Paul Pierce to articulate what the team is feeling heading into Game 3.
"Desperation. I mean, that's what it is right now," said Pierce. "We're down 0-2. We've got to be a desperate team now, backs against the wall. We've got two home games, and... just because you have two home games doesn't necessarily mean it's a guaranteed win. We've got to go out and play like a desperate team with a huge sense of urgency, because Game 3 right now, our season's definitely on the line. Throughout the history of the playoffs, when you go down 3-0, your percentages go way down. So, we want to give ourselves the best percentage-wise chance of winning this series, so this is the biggest game of the series so far."
Home teams that win the first two games of a series have a 94.4 percent success rate throughout NBA history. But, as Pierce suggested, no team has ever rallied from a 3-0 hole.
Asked if the Celtics were a desperate team, Kevin Garnett said: "Absolutely. When you're down 0-2 to a good team that's playing really well, that has a rhythm, yeah, desperation is definitely into play. We can't afford to think otherwise. This is it. We cannot go down 0-3 to any team, I feel like in the postseason. It'd be a very difficult situation to put yourself in."
Echoed Jeff Green: "From here on out, we have to play with [desperation] if we want to continue to play in the postseason. We have to play with desperation, play every game like it could be the last. We have to leave it out on the floor."