ATLANTA — The transition back to NBA defensive stopper and emerging shooting guard is going to take time for Avery Bradley.
His return to the lineup has produced solid defensive results for the Celtics, who have held three straight opponents under 100 points following Saturday night’s 89-81 victory over the Hawks at Philips Arena. Offensively, Bradley is still trying to find his range. He’s shot 8 for 26 in three games, with 16 total points.
Bradley was immediately inserted into the starting lineup upon his return from surgery on both shoulders and has played 62 minutes in three games as he tries to work himself into game shape.
“I think it just comes with the game, and you obviously have to get a feel [for the shot], and I haven’t played in a long time,” he said. “Practice shots are a lot different from game shots. You have to get used to it. I have to get my legs under me. After that, I’ll be fine. I have to keep playing, no matter what.”
Coach Doc Rivers said he doesn’t expect Bradley’s offense to come quickly but he will remain in the lineup because of his defensive impact.
“I thought Avery set the tone [Friday], I just thought his defensive intensity, he used up so much clock on the other side for them to get into their offense,” Rivers said. “Their first pass was at 11 seconds, and it’s hard to score when you have 10 seconds to score every time down.”
Rivers said he is not concerned about Bradley’s scoring.
“Because he’s probably not going to develop for three or four more games,” the coach said. “Or maybe even longer. The guy has been out all year. He had a shoulder injury, so I don’t expect him to be a great offensive player tomorrow.”
Bradley said the difference between the speed of a game vs. practice is a big one.
“The intensity level, that’s why you already heard coaches harping on how you should go hard in practice,” Bradley said. “It’s two completely different games. You’re closing out harder during games and then adrenaline with all the fans, it’s completely different.”
Rondo sees progress
Rajon Rondo was hardly thrilled after the Celtics snapped their four-game losing streak with a 94-75 victory against the Pacers Friday night at TD Garden. He is probably the team’s biggest critic, and he said the victory over Indiana had just a sliver of the intensity the team needs to display.
“It’s only one game,” Rondo said. “Defensively, it was a good feeling. We really didn’t score at all in the first quarter but defensively we got stops against a good team. For us to bounce back and get a win against a good team playing well [was good].”
Garnett in the clear
There was no further disciplinary action by the NBA against Kevin Garnett following his Flagrant-2 foul against Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter Friday night . . . The Hawks were without point guard Devin Harris (sore left foot) and swingman Anthony Morrow (right hip strain) . . . Chris Wilcox made the trip to Atlanta and ran sprints before the game, but he remains out indefinitely with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.