CHICAGO – One day after shutting down Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls, Avery Bradley told reporters that size doesn’t matter when it comes to playing elite defense.
What does matter, he was asked?
“Heart,” he stated bluntly.
Bradley showcased the heart of a lion while acting as the key cog in Boston’s dominant defensive effort against Chicago during Game 3. The Celtics limited the Bulls to a measly 87 points, while Butler struggled to one of the worst playoff performances of his career.
Butler made only seven of his 21 shots and did not tally a single assist Friday night, despite the fact that he became the team’s go-to playmaker with Rajon Rondo out of the lineup. It marked the second-worst shooting performance of Butler’s postseason career, and only the second time he has been held without an assist in a playoff game since he became a full-time rotational player in 2012-13 (19 games).
Bradley was the leading force that shielded Boston from Butler’s offensive prowess. Bradley, whose C’s entered the game down 0-2 in the series, said it all came down sheer will and determination.
“Whenever your back is against the wall, you’ll do anything,” he told Celtics.com Saturday afternoon at Roosevelt University. “You become desperate and you give your all.”
In Bradley’s case, what he gave was defense. What he gave up was offense.
Boston’s defensive stopper entered the contest having averaged 14.0 field goal attempts per game during the first two matchups of the series. That number was right on par with his average of 14.1 FGA per game during the regular season.
But Bradley attempted only 10 shots during 36 minutes of action Friday night as he spent the majority of his energy and concentration on containing the likes of Butler and Dwyane Wade at the other end of the floor. Bradley believes that’s a recipe for success for his team.
“I think I guarded Jimmy the entire time [Friday night],” he said. “We were all taking turns, but I think staying on him as much as I can, I think it helps our team out.”
The rest of the Celtics seem to agree with Bradley’s belief. Gerald Green, who started during Game 3 for the first time this season and scored eight points, praised Bradley’s defense and relayed his utmost confidence in No. 0.
“I’ve been in the league 12 years, and I’ve played overseas, I’ve played in the D-League. I’ve played a lot of basketball,” Green said, “and he might be the best defender I’ve ever had.
“I could throw Avery on anybody. I don’t care who it is,” he added. “I think when Avery is on anyone, I feel really confident about that situation.”
That’s why Brad Stevens said Friday night that he “couldn’t take [Bradley] out of the game.” That’s why Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg called Bradley an “elite wing defender” following the contest.
And that’s why Butler, a three-time All-Star, was a non-factor during Game 3.
It all came down to heart and desperation, two qualities Bradley showcases each and every night at the defensive end of the floor.