By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It was clear that Avery Bradley had a little extra something in the Celtics’ last two wins over the Chicago Bulls.
You can thank Jimmy Butler for that, as it was a bit of trash talk from the Bulls star that gave Bradley a little extra fuel to his fire, helping the Celtics close out the series and advance to the second round.
Word got back to Bradley that Butler let his teammates know that they couldn’t let a guy like Bradley score 20 points. That was a big mistake. The normally reserved Bradley used those words as motivation, and discussed it in an uncharacteristic way following Friday night’s series clinching win.
“I took it personal,” Bradley said after the C’s crushed the Bulls 105-83 in Game 6. “I usually don’t say anything. I usually go out there and play hard. But I feel like every player should respect this game and respect the guys that go out there and prepare every single night. I feel like I won the battle tonight.”
On top of some spectacular defense on Butler, Bradley scored 47 points on 65 percent shooting from the floor over the last two games. Again, thank you Jimmy Butler.
“I play hard every single game and I feel like he should respect that, somebody that goes up and gives him respect every single game,” Bradley continued. “I’m just going to leave it there. But like I said, I definitely won two battles in a row.”
In addition to Butler’s comments, Bradley said he was also motivated to make it up to his teammates after he was unable to help them in their opening round loss to the Atlanta Hawks last postseason due to a hamstring injury. Celtics forward Al Horford was on the other side of that series, and is happy to be sharing the floor with a player like Bradley this time around.
“I don’t think he gets the amount of respect and credit of what he’s been able to do,” said Horford. “First of all, guarding a guy much taller than him and just being relentless on both ends of the floor, because he’s not only locking people down on defense, but then offensively. We’re expecting a lot from him. And he’s giving it to us.
“The last couple of games he caught fire a little bit, but he’s been the difference for us,” added Horford.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens couldn’t agree more.
“Avery’s decision making and basketball play the last two games has been outstanding on both ends of the floor,” said Stevens. “I was really happy for him because he puts in a lot of work and sometimes gets attention and sometimes he doesn’t. But he’s a heck of a player and he had a great series for us.”
The Celtics are now moving on to the second round for the first time since 2012, with Bradley the only holdover from that Celtics team. They’ll square off against the Washington Wizards, and Bradley will have his hands full again guarding the likes of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The two teams don’t particularly like each other after splitting the regular season series 2-2, so there will likely be a lot more trash talk. But the Wizards might want to think twice if they’re going to disrespect Bradley’s game.
Just ask Jimmy Butler.