ATLANTA — Overshadowed by Friday’s disheartening 123-111 double-overtime loss to the Hawks was one of Avery Bradley’s better offensive games since returning from surgeries on both shoulders.
On Thursday, Bradley had the golden opportunity to put the Celtics ahead, and perhaps change their fortune against the Knicks.
After receiving a fourth-quarter pass from Paul Pierce behind the 3-point line, he took a rhythm dribble and missed the shot long. The Celtics lost by 3 and Bradley, who is less than a month into his comeback, was lamenting that missed chance.
He returned against Atlanta to score 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting in nearly 29 minutes. He sank two 3-pointers.
Bradley is shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line as coach Doc Rivers expected Bradley’s shot would take the longest to get back into form. He is showing signs of becoming the dependable shooter that emerged when Ray Allen went down with ankle issues last season and Bradley is feeling more comfortable with his shot.
“I’ve just got to continue to have that confidence in myself,” said Bradley. “[Rajon] Rondo and my other teammates have confidence in me and I just gotta keep playing hard; like I always said, if I go out there and play as hard as I can, I’ll make shots and those things will work out.”
Rivers said he will continue to encourage Bradley to take open shots, even at critical times.
“I know it’s wide-open but he didn’t expect the ball,” Rivers said of Bradley’s late miss Thursday. “Remember that play and Paul was wide-open. You could see Avery straighten up and all of sudden you see the ball coming. Those are usually unmakable shows.
“I don’t yell much about anybody shooting the ball. If he’s open, shoot it. If he’s taking bad shots, eventually I’ll say something.”
Jason Terry has been in a season-long slump, evidenced by his 37 percent shooting over his previous 26 games. Terry missed five of six shots in Thursday’s loss, including three 3-pointers. He looked more in rhythm Friday in scoring 12 points, shooting 4 of 6 overall and 3 of 4 from deep.
“Jason missed some open shots [Thursday] but they’ll go in eventually,” Rivers said. “Four of them were shots that even I could have made one of them. So I am not that concerned.
“I think it’s all of us. I don’t think it’s just [Terry].”
With guard Lou Williams out for the season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, the Hawks have gone to a bigger lineup with Al Horford at power forward, rugged Ivan Johnson at center, and Josh Smith at small forward.
The starting frontcourt combined for 52 points and 28 rebounds (eight offensive) Friday night.
Rivers said forward Chris Wilcox is healthy enough to return, but Wilcox hasn’t played since Dec. 18, when he sprained a ligament in his right wrist. “It’s tough watching but at the same time you’ve got to be ready,” Wilcox said. “I think this time now I’m trying to do whatever I can to get in shape and be ready when he calls my name.” . . . Fab Melo scored 13 points with 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in the Maine Red Claws’ 123-115 loss to the Springfield Armor Thursday. In 18 games, Melo is averaging 11.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks, which leads the D-League . . . Entering Friday, Jared Sullinger was sixth in the league in fouls per game with 3.5, despite averaging just 20 minutes. He went scoreless in 24 minutes Friday and fouled out in double overtime.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.