“They did everything in terms of applying pressure up the floor,” said Knicks coach Mike Woodson, echoing similar sentiments. “We couldn’t really get into our stuff.”
Besides disrupting New York’s initial offense, Bradley’s ball pressure allows the big men to concentrate on their own responsibilities.
“It helps our defense as a team,” said power forward Brandon Bass. “It helps the bigs out because we don’t have to help so much. I mean, he’s one of the best in the league at on-ball defense.”
Paul Pierce, who scored 23 points and danced in front of Tyson Chandler before canning a hard left-dribble, step-back dagger in the reigning Defensive Player of the Year’s face with 45 seconds left, echoed Bass’ statement.
“It really takes the pressure off the front line guys because you can keep the ball in front and keep them out of the paint,” Pierce explained.
I’d be doing Bradley a disservice if I didn’t at least mention his 13 points (6-of-7 shooting after the poor start), five assists and three rebounds, especially considering that he corralled a crucial offensive rebound in traffic at the 2:17 mark of the fourth quarter and followed that with a timely cut to the rim after Boston reset its offense.
Amidst the chaos that ensued after Bradley’s rebound (there was bound to be a mismatch somewhere, as Kidd was guarding Kevin Garnett in the post and Amar’e Stoudemire wasn’t sure where to go), Pierce found Bradley underneath the right side of the rim, where he extended the lead to 98-93 just under the two-minute mark.
But with Bradley, at the end of the day it’s all about defense, defense, defense.
“Like I always say, you win the game on the defensive end,” said Bradley. “I try not to worry about offense; just play hard on defense.”
And if he can continue his defensive dominance, continue to force other stars out of their comfort zones and into spots on the floor that are advantageous to Boston, the current six-game gap between the Celtics and Knicks suddenly doesn’t seem as large.
“It’s what we can be, but it’s not what we’ve been,” Rivers said. “That’s what I’ve been saying: We can be better, but it’s a start.”
And at the team bus:
“I mean that was big, you know?” asked J.R. Smith, regarding Anthony’s determination on the court. “For one, it was a home game and you never want to lose at home and them being our rivals, being in our division, that was huge for us. For him to show that much fire, I think everyone else should show the same.”
I haven’t played at the highest level, and I’m not condoning Anthony’s actions – he should have left this on the court until the next meeting on Jan. 24 in Boston – but I can’t help but love the fact that Anthony cared as much about this game as he did.
Did he let his emotions get the best of him? Yes. Did he settle for jumpers on a few occasions? Sure.
But during an era that I felt the need to write an open letter to DeMarcus Cousins yesterday pleading with him to embrace his talents, it’s refreshing to see Anthony give a shit all the time this season.
It was not the smartest decision and it could cost him some action, which makes this much worse, especially considering that a single game could make or break home court throughout the playoffs. But it’s still nice to see.
It’s also ironic that Anthony’s defense for his grittiness on the court came from Doc Rivers, to a degree.
“The game just got heated,” explained Rivers when asked what happened between Garnett and Anthony. “I mean, it’s just basketball. There’s nothing wrong with getting heated, you know? It happens. It’s a fun game, it’s competitive and it’s rough at times and that’s good. I think all that’s good. It should never carry over past that. I’ve had my moments as a player as well and it does [carry over]. Whenever it does, you feel terrible later but this is the way the game should be played: A competitive, hard game. Overall the officials let us play, both teams, and that’s good with us.”
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring scout and shooting coach. He writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.