Avery Bradley has brought a new dimension to the Celtics’ starting lineup since replacing injured Ray Allen. While his offensive numbers do not match Allen’s, he has provided the team with another staunch backcourt defender - just witness how he bottled up Miami’s Dwyane Wade in Sunday’s 91-72 win at TD Garden.
Wade finished 6 for 17 shooting for 15 points, and Bradley (13 points) highlighted his effort with an impressive block of a Wade dunk attempt in the second quarter. Allen has missed the past seven games with an ankle injury, and coach Doc Rivers was asked whether Allen would automatically return to the starting lineup when healthy.
“I don’t know, we’re playing well but we’ve also played well with Ray by the way,’’ Rivers said. “I think people forget that part. The good thing is we have options and we have players with confidence and we have a lot of them.’’
The combination of Mickael Pietrus (before he sustained a concussion March 23) and Bradley has vastly improved Boston’s defense in the backcourt. Bradley was primarily used as a backup to Rajon Rondo and started eight games (Jan. 20-Feb. 1) when Rondo was out with a sprained right wrist.
Bradley has averaged 12.6 points and three rebounds in the past five games, and his defense early in games has helped the Celtics to establish their game.
“You’ve always got Kevin [Garnett] on the floor and I think what Avery and [Pietrus] do, they give Rondo life defensively because he feels like ‘I got some guys out here that we can put some pressure on the ball,’ ’’ Rivers said. “To start the second half, Rondo just pressured the ball, Avery denied it, and [the Heat] turned the ball over and it’s just because of pressure. That’s something we haven’t been able to do.’’
Said Bradley of his chances to start: “It helps being a starter. When I got the starting minutes it made me feel a lot more comfortable because of who I am playing with and gaining their trust and not only their trust but Doc’s trust and him feeling more comfortable with me being out there.’’
Allen not ready
Allen tried again to participate in the pregame shootaround, but had too much discomfort in his right ankle. Allen has not played since scoring 6 points on 1-for-8 shooting in the March 22 win over the Bucks. The team is hoping he can return Wednesday against the Spurs.
“He hasn’t gone through [more tests], we’re surprised, you can see him moving around, he’s just not ready to play,’’ Rivers said. “He literally can’t play. He wants to play and we want him to play. He’s just not ready.’’
Rivers had not offered specifics about Pietrus’s condition before Sunday, but the prognosis for the swingman does not appear good. He made his first appearance at the Garden since sustaining the concussion in Philadelphia, wearing sunglasses and a white towel around his head. He watched the game on television from inside the Garden and left about 20 minutes following the win.
“Hopefully I’ll be back next week,’’ he said.
Pietrus has not begun the process of taking his NBA-mandated tests to return to action. He would have to be cleared by the Celtics’ doctors and an NBA-sponsored specialist.
“This is his first day venturing out into the light, literally, and he’s going to come in and say, ‘Hi,’ to the guys and then we’re going to try to get him in the car and get him back home,’’ Rivers said before the game. “He’s not responding very well. It’s just great to see him. I don’t think anybody has seen him since the injury. It would be great to have him in the locker room. He’s texting a lot now, which is great. We haven’t even started the tests. He’s going to be out a while.
“There’s three stages [of concussions] and he’s at the third, which is the worst one you can have. It’s tough. He’s been struggling.’’
When asked if he considers Pietrus out for the season, Rivers said: “I am not going to say that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played next week. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see him. With that injury, I don’t think anyone really knows.’’
Two Kansas T-shirts and a cap were sitting in the locker of former Jayhawk Paul Pierce, who has been rooting vigorously for his team in the NCAA Tournament. Rondo, a Kentucky product, said he would place a wager on the game with Pierce if Kansas “got lucky enough’’ to make it to the title game . . . Rivers’s son, Austin, who recently declared for the NBA draft, attended the game. University of Washington point guard Abdul Gaddy, a high school teammate of Bradley’s, also was in the crowd . . . Although the Celtics led by as many as 29 points and the fourth quarter was mostly garbage time, Marquis Daniels did not play . . . Bradley caused a jump ball in the fourth quarter with Miami’s 17-year veteran Juwan Howard. Bradley was 16 months old when the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five,’’ featuring the freshman Howard, made a run to the national championship game in 1992.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.