Bradley Returns to Full Strength at Perfect Time

BOSTON – After a lengthy battle with a stomach bug, Avery Bradley finally seemed to be back to his old self Monday night when his Boston Celtics hosted the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden.

The hard-hitting illness took quite a toll on the veteran guard, as he missed three of Boston’s previous eight games and seemed a bit lethargic during the five games he was able to play in.

Monday night, however, Bradley was full of energy from the opening tip until the final buzzer. He shot 7-of-10 from the field, collecting 18 points and five rebounds, while propelling the C’s to a 114-105 win over the Nets.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” Bradley confirmed after the game. “I’m able to keep on weight now. It’s my job to continue to get to the gym, keep putting shots up, make sure I’m hydrated, and make sure I’m in the weight room so I’m prepared for the playoffs.”

Health has been an issue for Bradley since the start of the New Year. He suffered an Achilles injury on Jan. 6 and missed 22 of Boston’s next 23 games as a result.

Bradley was back for less than a month before the stomach bug hit him. And it hit him hard, particularly affecting his shooting efficiency.

During his five appearances since March 23, Bradley shot just 33.3 percent from the field and missed 19 of his first 21 3-point attempts.

He finally began to rediscover his long-range shot during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s contest in Charlotte, as he went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc during the final six and a half minutes of Boston’s 121-114 win.

Bradley’s momentum from the tail end of Saturday’s game seemed to carry over to Monday when he knocked down 3-of-5 from 3-point range against Brooklyn.

“I think he just has better rhythm,” observed Al Horford, who has been in similar shoes as Bradley this season, having missed 14 games due to various injuries. “He was much more confident shooting the ball. I just think sometimes when you’re in and out for a while it takes time to get back up to speed.”

Bradley surely seemed to be back up to speed Monday night, as he exploded to the rim on a couple of occasions for a put-back dunk and a put-back tip shot. With just one game remaining until the postseason begins, he couldn’t have picked a better time to regain his stride.

“I’ve told Avery all along that these last five games or so since he’s been back are really important for him,” said C’s coach Brad Stevens. “His cuts looked really sharp [tonight]. He came off those screens and made shots at the end of the Charlotte game and he continued that in this game. He’s a big, important part of our chance moving forward.”

The Celtics understand how valuable Bradley’s presence will be during the postseason. They learned that the hard way last April when he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury during Game 1 of their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks. Boston could not overcome the loss of their top defender and second-leading scorer, and fell in six games to Atlanta.

“It’s good to have him healthy, especially at the start of the Playoffs,” said backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas. “He helps a lot on both ends of the floor, and for us to be who we want to be, we need to him to be healthy. So I’m glad he is and I’m glad he’s feeling like himself again.”

With the Playoffs set to begin this coming weekend, Bradley’s return to full strength couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

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