CLEVELAND — An hour and half before the Celtics played the Cavaliers Wednesday, Avery Bradley took to the court at Quicken Loans Arena and fired away.
His mechanics looked sound, as they often do for a player whose shooting stroke is simply textbook, and Bradley buried jumpers from all over the hardwood.
But Bradley had a rough shooting performance in the Celtics’ 93-92 win over the Cavaliers, hitting just 1 of 7 shots, scoring just 3 points.
And in the last 12 games, Bradley is shooting 32.2 percent (39 for 121) and several misses have been layups or other shots right around the rim.
“I’ve just got to stay confident,” Bradley said before the game. “Sometimes I forget that I had surgery [on both shoulders].
“And I always think that everything will be perfect all the time. Obviously I’m going through a slump right now. I’ve just got to stick with it.”
Bradley struggled against the Knicks in the Celtics’ 100-85 loss Tuesday night, missing 8 of his 11 shots.
After that game, coach Doc Rivers said that Bradley was “clearly going through something” and that “I’m probably going to have to do something to get him going more, not less.”
Rivers did acknowledge that Bradley’s offensive role has shifted with point guard Rajon Rondo out.
“Yeah, and people are picking him up more,” Rivers said. “And what we’re trying to do is get him to get the ball out of his hands. I think personally what’s going on now, guys are pressuring him, they’re speeding him up and it’s tough to get your faculties.
“We’re really trying to get him to advance the pass, not worry about bringing the ball up, let everyone else do it. That’s hard when you’ve got Jeff [Green] or Paul [Pierce] bringing the ball up. I do think we have to ease something, just to get him going. Once he gets going again, he’ll be fine.”
Though injuries have shifted roles and responsibilities, Bradley said he has not tried to stray from his duties.
“More than anything, I feel like you have to play the right way,” he said. “Don’t try to do anything that’s not the way we’ve been playing. We’ve just got to continue to move the ball and play hard. I don’t feel like we’ve been doing that consistently.”
Bradley is a ferocious defender who harasses opposing guards the length of the court, a tiresome enterprise that few others in the NBA even attempt at all much less for an entire game.
But Rivers said he didn’t think that the energy Bradley expels on defense has any effect on his offense.
“I want him obviously to make shots, but he’s missing layups,” Rivers said before the game. “I don’t think that has anything to do with the defensive end.”
Lee out again
Courtney Lee missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. Rivers said he’s hopeful that the starting guard can return Friday night vs. Atlanta at TD Garden.
Rivers had started Jordan Crawford in place of Lee when Lee sat out against the Knicks, but Rivers decided to go with a bigger lineup against Cleveland.
As such, Chris Wilcox made his first start of the season for the Celtics. The center, who was nearly traded to Washington in the deal that acquired Crawford in February, entered the game on a string of disappointing performances.
Wilcox hadn’t scored in three of his previous five games coming in, and had failed to grab a rebound in nine minutes against the Knicks.
Against Cleveland, Wilcox had 6 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes, his most playing time in five games.
“I played a whole quarter, so that’s off to a good start,” Wilcox said with a laugh.
The sample size is small, but after playing in six games with the Celtics, forward Shavlik Randolph has left an impression because of his hustle and ability to rebound.
“Shav was terrific again,” Rivers said. “He was wonderful for us.”
Randolph, who was playing in China before signing with Boston, had meager numbers — 3 points and 2 rebounds in 9 minutes – but he made his impact felt early in the second quarter.
Randolph stole a pass from Daniel Gibson. Quickly thereafter, he drew a loose ball foul on Marreese Speights. He grabbed a rebound. He drew a foul on Luke Walton. He recorded another steal. He drew a charge on Gibson.
That all happened in a span of about two minutes of game time.
The Celtics’ defense was suspect until the end, when it held Cleveland to one field goal in the final 5:26. “It woke up,” Rivers said of Boston’s D. “I was like, ‘I’m glad to see you!’ So it’s good. If you’re going to pick a spot to get stops, the last five minutes of the game is probably the perfect time to do it.” . . . Rivers said rookie forward Jared Sullinger, who is recovering from season-ending back surgery in February, likely won’t play for the team’s summer-league team.
Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.