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Nashua;64.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/skc.png;2014-09-22 08:12:59
Thursday, January 3, 2013

Celts falter again

BOSTON – Mike Conley had 23 points and nine assists to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 93-83 victory over the Celtics on Wednesday night and send Boston to its fourth consecutive loss.

Rudy Gay scored 19 points and ex-Celtic Tony Allen had a season-high 15 points for Memphis. ...

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BOSTON – Mike Conley had 23 points and nine assists to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 93-83 victory over the Celtics on Wednesday night and send Boston to its fourth consecutive loss.

Rudy Gay scored 19 points and ex-Celtic Tony Allen had a season-high 15 points for Memphis.

Paul Pierce scored 17 for Boston, but he had just one basket in the third quarter and none in the fourth while missing seven of his last eight shots.

Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who trailed by 18 after the opening basket of the fourth quarter but closed the gap to 83-78 with under 5 minutes to play on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jason Terry.

Boston began fouling and the Grizzlies made their shots, hitting 8 of 11 from the line down the stretch.

Bradley’s back

Avery Bradley passed his final test Tuesday, running through the Celtics’ practice without any complications, and played 191⁄2 minutes Wednesday night, scoring four points.

So now that the Celtics have their best perimeter defender back, the question is where he will have the most impact. Considering that they were cut apart by penetrating guards throughout their 1-3 roadtrip, that trouble spot is marked by a red flag.

“He takes (dribble penetration) away from his guy, but unfortunately there’s four other guys on the floor,” coach Doc Rivers said of what has hurt the overall defensive scheme. “Avery is probably top five in the league in on-ball defense and pressure and not getting beat. The problem is there’s four other guys on the floor, too. (But) if you can stop one of the guards from dribble penetration it has to help.”

Rondo was even more direct.

“He’s the best defender in the league, hands down, at the guard position,” Rondo said. “I’ll be allowed to play off the ball without Avery. He’s a better pick-and-roll defender than me. That takes a lot of pressure off me, getting through so many pick-and-rolls, and then coming down the court and creating plays. He knows his role, he plays with a lot of energy.’’

A lot of guys don’t like to face a guy like Avery.

“Hopefully (Bradley’s effort is infectious). Hopefully we’re all trying to step our level of play up when he comes on the court. His intensity is contagious, and hopefully we all do the same.”

Bradley’s focus, though, has been on normalcy.

Given the option of traveling with the Celtics on their 1-3 road trip, Bradley stayed home and worked out with fitness coach Bryan Doo and teammate Chris Wilcox, who is shelved for at least two more weeks with a sprained thumb.

“I knew I wasn’t going to play, and I knew if I went on the trip there would be pressure to play,” said Bradley. “It was just a decision I decided to make. We had our date set up to come back on the second, so I stayed back here and got ready.”

In light of recent performances -- the Celts lost by at least 18 points in three straight games for the first time since 1977 -- a lot of emphasis has been placed on Bradley’s return, though Rivers yesterday blamed the media for whatever pressure the guard is facing.

“We’re not doing that. That’s you guys,” he said. “No is the answer. I haven’t said to our team one time, ‘Guys, when Avery comes back .?.?.’ That’s from outside the team, not within the team.”

Bradley is staying on message.

“Just like any other day,” he said. “I’ll prepare, go over the plays, and prepare that it’s like a regular game day. I am excited. My teammates are excited, I’m pretty sure the fans are excited. We’re just going to go out and play Celtics basketball.

“I’m not (nervous). My first thought was that, as I started to get closer and closer, but now I just want to get ready more than anything, and not get antsy. I just wanted to know my dates, and where I needed to be as I touched those dates. That’s been my focus.”

Bradley thus attempted to block out all expectations.

“I try not to worry about it,” he said. “All you can do is go out there and play hard. That’s how I play. You can’t (try to do too much). There’s the possibility it could happen, me going out there and running all over the place. But I can’t worry about it. I don’t have any expectations of how I’m going to play. Defense is effort. If you want to play hard on the defensive end, you have to want to, and I want to.”