Blur your eyes just enough and Avery Bradley kinda looks like Ray Allen, right?
Forgive me for trying to shoe horn a play on words with the Kubrick movie. The first half may not work but the sentiment in the second couldn't be more true: I've learned to stop worrying and loved everything that Avery Bradley does for this team. Even if the Celtics can win both games against Miami and Atlanta back-to-back, I doubt this running debate on who should start will end. These fires were fueled even more with Ray's cryptic messages about coming off the bench and returning next season. I have some reservations that if Ray permanently becomes the sixth man for the rest of the year and the playoffs, this may motivate him to find a starting gig elsewhere, but we need to take a hard look at what putting Avery in the starting lineup is doing now.
The numbers don't lie, especially on the defensive end. As Zach Lowe points out:
Over the last 15 games, Boston has allowed 92.9 points per 100 possessions, about 8.5 points per 100 possessions better than the league average. Over the last 10 games? That number is down to 89.1, a ridiculous 12.5 points per 100 possessions below the league's overall average.
More number crunching for NBA stats nerd John Hollinger:
When Bradley and Garnett play together, Boston gives up 88.8 points per 100 possessions, allows 38.8 percent shooting and forces nearly one turnover for every assist. This is scary stuff, and it's not one of those small-minute flukes, either -- they've played 658 minutes together. You think that's impressive? How's this: When Rondo and Bradley play together, opponents average 82.2 points per 100 possessions. That's nearly 20 points below the league average.
Kevin Arnovitz breaks it down:
Did you see Bradley's block of Dwyane Wade two Sundays ago? Did you see him deny Wade on the perimeter and lock onto him off every screen and curl? Bradley's prowess as an on-ball defender also allows Rondo to play off the ball, where he can use his long branches to play passing lanes and do a little gambling. Those arms also make Rondo a stellar choice to be one of the two back-size zone defenders in Boston's overloaded defense. Because as important as it is for the C's to suffocate the ball handler and send that extra body to the strong side, it's the two defenders on the weak side who have a ton of responsibility -- as they usually have to cover three guys.
Is Avery the sole catalyst of this defensive resurgence? Absolutely not. Garnett is still the quarterback on defense, but we can't overlook what AB has contributed in his short time as a starter. There's even an argument to be made that he's better on the offensive end, too.
The national media is gushing over the Celtics defense with Bradley in the starting lineup, but it's also important to point out that players are taking notice on AB's impact on the offensive side of the ball.
"One thing about Boston is they have a lot of triggers," said Wade. "You're looking at Rondo with the ball and all of the triggers they have, and (Bradley) is one of the best cutters. He finds a way to cut when the triggers are going. Maybe a big is rolling, maybe Rondo is driving in the paint, and you're doing what you've been taught to do - which is paying attention to the ball - and he's going the other way. You just have to be aware of it.
He's a good finisher. He's an aggressive defender. He'll try to get into you. I'm a guy who's always going to give it your all, but he makes you focus a little bit more on your game."
Avery's the same guy on offense as he is on defense. He's that pesky mosquito that you try and swat away, but still manages to sneak up and bite you. He is the perfect complement to Rondo because he's in constant motion freelancing off the ball and makes Rondo more of a threat. More insight from Zach Lowe:
Boston's new starting lineup has scored about 108.5 points per 100 possessions in 136 minutes together, a mark that would lead the league, per NBA.com.
Sadly, this isn't true with Ray. Sure, he may space the floor a little more, but the Celtics tend to run more "sets" for him to get his shots rather than find him in the natural flow of the game. Look, I love Ray just as much as the next guy. He's been the consummate pro and taken the demotion in stride, but if I'm being honest, it pains me to watch the offense when they're trying to get him a good look. How many times has Ray flashed up from the baseline after a series of down screens, caught the ball, and didn't shoot? It takes so much off the shot clock and the ball sticks.