BOSTON (CBS) – With both Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (concussion) out Sunday night, the Boston Celtics needed Avery Bradley to step up.

So the second-year guard responded with a career night, leading the way with career-high 23 points in Boston’s 88-76 win at the Garden.

“It’s just a confidence thing,” Bradley said after the game. “I feel more confident out there because my teammates make me feel more comfortable. And it shows; I’ve been knocking down more shots.”

Left open by Washington, Bradley was given the ball early and often and made the Wizards pay. He knocked down his first seven shots, mostly layups, en route to 15 first quarter points.  All of that came from confidence, said Bradley.

Avery Bradley 1-on-1 with Steve Burton 

“If I’m open, I’m open and I’ll shoot it,” he said. “You have to seize every opportunity, like tonight. I got an opportunity and I made the most of it. I came out and played hard, and I was fortunate enough to make shots.”

“I think that has to come from experience. When you go in practice, we see him knock down those shots every day,” said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. “He didn’t even hesitate tonight when he got those shots.”

“It was great to see him go in,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who had Bradley out there for 40 minutes. “I thought there was a point it was clearly confidence because you see him in practice and he makes them, then he gets in the game and he just needed one to fall.”

The Celtics would like to see Bradley attack the rim more, using his blazing speed to blow by defenders.

“I thought he was aggressive. We encourage him to be aggressive often,” said forward Kevin Garnett. “At the same time I thought he took shots that were there for him, he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.”

“Avery is — Rondo would probably kick me in the behind for saying this — but he’s probably the fastest guy on the team,” added KG. “He’s very explosive and I just don’t think he’s had a lot of opportunities to show the things he can do.”

“A lot of my teammates tell me that,” Bradley said when asked if his speed makes him un-guardable. “I just feel like when you get that confidence, and that experience to know the speed of the game, I feel like all those things come. KG always says, how you played in high school, once you learn the game it’s like the same at this level. I think that comes with experience. Playing with these guys I can learn new things every day.”

Bradley will likely get another start at the two-guard position Monday night when the Celtics visit the Bobcats in Charlotte. Allen and Pietrus will have the night off again, giving Bradley another chance to showcase his game.

Read: Celtics-Bobcats Preview

And while he enjoyed his career game, the humble guard said there is still plenty to learn.

“I feel like I need to improve in every aspect of my game,” he said after his best game as a pro. “But definitely ball handling, playing the point more. That’s something I’m going to work on every chance I get. Seeing how this season is so busy, it’s hard, but every chance I get I try to improve.”


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