BOSTON (CBS) – As Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry tore the Knicks to shreds on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Avery Bradley watched attentively.
The Celtics guard knew Curry was coming to Boston on Friday night, and he would be the one tabbed to stop him — or at least try to slow him down.
But after Curry put up an NBA season-high 54 points in New York — his 19th game of the season with 25+ points — Doc Rivers said it may not matter who is guarding the offensively-gifted Warrior on Friday night.
Read: Celtics-Warriors Preview
“Probably everyone. Or if he plays like he did (Wednesday) night, no one,” Rivers joked as to who would guard Curry. “That was impressive.”
Figuring out what part of Curry’s night was most impressive is the difficult part. Is it the 16 points he scored in the fourth quarter? The 11-of-13 he shot from three-point range? Or maybe it’s the fact that in addition to scoring more than half of Golden State’s points, he also dished out seven assists.
Doc On Stephen Curry:
It’s Curry’s all-around game that Rivers says makes him one of the toughest players to guard.
“He can shoot and he has a quick release. He scores in more than one way; he can score off the bounce and he also doesn’t need to the ball to score,” said Rivers. “What makes him the toughest is he’s a point guard. It’s tough to get the ball out of the point guard’s hand — he always has the ball.”
But the Celtics are confident Bradley, along with solid team defense, can keep Curry from going off the charts once again Friday night.
“I don’t know if Avery is going to shut down everyone, but I know he’s going to give you the attempt to pressure,” said Rivers. “And ball pressure is important.”
“I just use the football analogy: if you didn’t blitz Tom Brady and you just let him sit back there all day, he’d pick you apart,” said Rivers. It’s the same in basketball. If you let passers just sit there with no pressure, they’re going to pick you apart. Avery is our blitzer.”
“Great offense trumps great defense every time when you have a special player like [Curry],” said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. “It’s going to be tough — unless you have a guy like Avery Bradley on him.”
Pierce On Avery Bradley vs. Stephen Curry:
“I think every great team needs a player like that, especially a great defensive team; a guy who can go out there with so many great scorers in this league and great individuals,” said Pierce. “You need that one guy that can go out there and kind of slow these type of guys down –we have that in Avery Bradley. He’s shown the willingness to sacrifice so much. I believe he could give us a lot more offensively, but he’s so great on the defensive end it has an impact on the whole team.”
“In my eyes, he’s probably the best on-the-ball defender in the NBA,” Pierce said of Bradley. “I’d be very surprised if he didn’t make the all-defensive team.”
After missing the first-half of the season after undergoing a pair of off-season shoulder surgeries, Bradley returned just as strong and remains one of the best defenders in the game. His smothering defense has helped the Celtics climb into the Top 10 defenses as far as points allowed (9th at 96.1 points per game), and it kills him if an opposing player comes in and puts up numbers like Curry has been lately.
Bradley was none-too-pleased in January when Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving dropped 40 points on the Celtics in a loss. Now with another big test coming in, he’ll be more than up to the challenge. Bradley will get help from fellow guard Courtney Lee, along with Paul Pierce and even Terrence Williams (should he be out of Doc’s doghouse), because really, it takes a full team effort to slow down a player with Curry’s ability.
Curry scored 22 points against the Celtics in California on December 29, a game Bradley did not play. Now he brings his 21.9 points per game and ridiculous 48-percent shooting (both from the floor and three-point range) to Boston for a showdown against dynamic defender.
That alone will be worth the price of admission on Friday.
Follow Matthew Geagan on Twitter @MattyGWBZ