The kind of perimeter defense the third-year guard out of Texas plays is on par with the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.
On Monday night at Madison Square Garden, in just his fourth game back from a shoulder injury that he suffered in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals, Bradley dominated the game in his own unique way: By playing aggressive, get-in-the-way defense on Knicks star scorers Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, forcing them out of their comfort zone and into Boston’s schemes.
“Defensively, he’s so disruptive,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “It just gives us a chance.”
So far in his return, Bradley has given Boston more than a chance. With him on the floor, Boston is allowing 86.3 points per game on 40.4 percent shooting (including holding Indiana to a season-low 31.8 percent) and is 3-1 in the process.
Prior to Bradley’s return, Boston was allowing 98.6 points per game.
Bradley made his presence felt quickly, as he was up in Anthony’s grill as he attempted a jumper from the right wing on the game’s first possession and pressured Jason Kidd into coughing up the ball less than a minute later. He shot 0-of-4 in the opening period, but that was about the only blemish on a night filled with a highlight reel coaches would appreciate.
Bradley relentlessly pressured Kidd as he brought the ball up the floor. He forced Smith and Anthony to begin their pursuits a few feet from where they’d like to operate.
And it made all the difference in the world for a Celtics team that’s desperately needed a spark and an identity during the first third of their 2012-13 campaign.
“They made us start the ball pretty much at halfcourt, and it’s pretty hard to run plays when you’re not getting the ball where you want to get it started at,” said Smith, who suffered an 11-stitch gash above his left eye thanks to an up-close-and-personal view of Bradley’s forehead after attempting to penetrate the lane late in the fourth quarter.