CHICAGO — Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley said he felt disrespected by comments made by Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler and used them as motivation Friday night when Boston completed its rally from an 0-2 deficit to end Chicago’s season.
Two days after scoring a postseason career-high 24 points in Boston’s Game 5 triumph over the Bulls, Bradley put up 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting over just 31 minutes in Boston’s series-clinching 105-83 Game 6 triumph on Friday night at the United Center.
“You want to know something, I took [Butler’s comments] personal,” Bradley said. “There was a few guys that walked up to me and said — I think Jimmy had said [after Game 5], ‘We can’t let guys like Avery Bradley score 20.’ And I usually don’t say anything. I just 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.
“And I feel like I won the battle tonight. And not only that, 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. And so I’m just going to leave it there. But, like I said, I definitely won two battles in a row.”
Bradley has showered Butler with praise throughout the series even as he has limited Butler’s scoring output, helping Boston to rally from its 0-2 hole. Entering Friday’s Game 6, Butler was shooting just 37 percent against Bradley in the series.
Bradley, who was first-team All-Defense last season, has expressed a desire to be viewed by his peers as a two-way threat. Bradley averaged a career-high 16.3 points per game this season, and his 3-point percentage spiked to 39 percent. In part because of the gaudy numbers that teammate Isaiah Thomas put up, Bradley’s scoring was often overlooked.
Through the first four games of the postseason, Bradley averaged just 12.3 points per game, then nearly doubled his total point output in the final two games.
When asked if Bradley proved something with his offensive efforts on the playoff stage, teammate Al Horford, seated next to Bradley at the postgame news conference, smiled and said, “He showed a little bit.”
Added Horford: “Man, Avery has been amazing. I don’t think he gets the amount of respect and credit of what he’s been able to do, 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. And I’m just happy to see him finally healthy. Earlier in the year he had some health issues. But now he’s good and we’re playing at a high level.”
Bradley played just 55 games during the regular season and missed extended time due to an Achilles injury. Bradley, who missed nearly all of the playoffs last season after injuring himself in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, has been key to Boston advancing out of the first round for the first time since 2012.
“I’m happy for [Bradley],” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “It was a strain those two months he missed [with the Achilles injury], but I’m glad it wasn’t April and May. We talked about that, joked as a staff that, as much as we were injured during the season, at least it wasn’t the postseason. We’ve been fortunate — knock on wood — to stay healthy and Avery has been in midseason form. The way he’s playing right now, maybe that time off was good for him.”