The guard was on a strict minute restirction of 22 or 23 minutes to continue to ease him back into game action. Coach Stevens, understanding the clutch capabilites of Clevland's All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, was wise enough to save Bradley for the final three minutes of the contest:
#Celtics coach Brad Stevens: I was told somewhere between 22 and 23 min for Avery Bradley max. Held him to 18 so he could play last three.— Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) March 2, 2017
Brad Stevens says he purposely saved Avery Bradley's final minutes of playing time until the end of the 4Q, and that was a critical decision— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 2, 2017
And boy did this strategy come in handy. When I saw Kyrie Irving with an isolation on the right wing - the same spot where he hit his clutch pull-up three against the Warriors in Game 7 of the Finals and his nearly idential clutch shot against the Wizards this season - I was worried. But then when I saw Avery mathced up with him, I quickly was reminded just how good his defense is.
I mean, just look at this defense Bradley plays on who may be the best ball-handler in the league:
Stevens' smart time management with Bradley proved to be a big factor:
How important was it to have Avery Bradley available to defend Kyrie Irving? Brad Stevens says, "I think it’s a necessity."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 2, 2017
Bradley's ability to contain players on the perimeter has always been his strongest attribute but with him out for so many games, it was easy to forget the impact that he truly has on the court for the Celts. The 26-year-old noted the pride he takes in that part of his game:
Avery Bradley on his D: "It's something I take pride in. I love going up against the Kyries, the Russell Westbrooks, all of those guys."— Brian Robb (@CelticsHub) March 2, 2017
It's encouraging for Celtics fans to see Bradley back, healthy, and contibuting to wins with his defense. As good as Marcus Smart is at keeping with opposing guards, having Bradley back will only strengthen Boston's defense (remember the 'IT and D' lineup? Yea well that's what we saw down the stretch).
Props to Bradely on his stellar defense on Irving, and props to Stevens on recognizing the value of saving his minutes for the end of the game.
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo by Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images Erik Johnson 3/02/2017 08:30:00 AM Tweet Edit