BOSTON – If the words came from anyone other than Avery Bradley, I wouldn’t have believed it.
The Boston Celtics are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference courtesy of a 112-94 regular season-ending win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
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And Bradley, maybe the most optimistic Celtic you will ever meet, was asked following the win whether he expected the Celtics to win the East.
“I always expected to be the number one team coming out of the East,” said Bradley, whose words will surely invoke a “yeah, right!” response from many. “I always expect for us to be better than what people think we’re gonna be. The type of guys we have, the coaches, I know the amount of work we put in, the work our coaching staff puts in. I always have high expectations for this team.”
So does Isaiah Thomas, who led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring this season (29.0) per game which ranks seconds in the league.
But Thomas is more reflective at this moment on how much ground the Celtics have made up in a relatively short period of time.
When he arrived just before the February trade deadline in 2015, the Celtics were a sub-.500 team that had won just 25 games the previous season.
To go from those modest days when the goal was to be competitive and maybe win a game here and there, to the team standing atop the Eastern Conference at the end of the regular season, says a lot about this team’s rapid growth.
“They definitely weren’t thinking number one seed when I got here,” Thomas said. “They were barely thinking playoffs. How fast it’s come says a lot about the direction this organization is going in and the work we put in as players and coaches.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 112-94 win over Milwaukee which secured the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference for the Celtics (53-29), the first time they have gone into the postseason as the No. 1 overall seed since 2008.
He’s usually delivering lots of intangibles to the game such as deflections, rebounds and setting screens. Instead, he was being set up to be more of a scorer. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting along with five rebounds.
He has been patient all season, making the most of his opportunities that are few and far between. He led the Celtics with 18 points and was a central figure in Boston’s 25-6 run to end the game.
He continues to stand out at both ends of the floor for Boston, in addition to making his presence felt on the glass. He had 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting with five rebounds and two assists and three steals.
The Bucks found a gem in Brogdon who should get serious consideration for the league’s all-rookie first team. He had 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting with five rebounds and three assists without a single turnover.
Celtics’ first half defense
Boston needed a blistering finish because of a really poor start defensively. The Bucks were able to get to wherever they wanted to offensively. And when they weren’t making shots – which was rare – they were often in position for the easy put-back basket. After the first quarter, the Celtics had allowed the Bucks to shoot 60.9 percent from the field (14-for-23) while out-rebounding the Celtics 11-8. Boston has to limit slow starts like that in the postseason.