Celtics-Bobcats Preview

In the larger part of two seasons, Avery Bradley’s contributions

to the Boston Celtics have been minimal.

Now, a pair of injuries may have him playing a key role in them

gaining a share of the Atlantic Division lead.

Bradley looks to build on the best performance of his career and

help the Celtics capitalize on a meeting with the NBA-worst

Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night.

Bradley, the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft, is averaging

4.8 points this season after posting 1.7 in 31 games off the bench

as a rookie.

While the guard tends to be sparingly involved, Boston (26-22)

is in need of some production with guards Ray Allen (sore left

ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (head) out.

Bradley delivered in a big way Sunday, scoring a career-high 23

points while hitting 9 of 14 from the field to power an 88-76 win

over Washington. His scoring output was one less than his total

from the previous six games.

Playing 39:57 surely helped, but Bradley attributed the effort

to confidence.

“It’s all about confidence,” Bradley said. “Sometimes I would go

into the game thinking twice about shooting. Now, if I’m open, I’m

open and I’ll shoot it. I’ve been making them. I was fortunate

enough for my teammates to find me in transition and give me the

ball and I made shots.”

With Allen and Pietrus likely out again, Bradley will be relied

upon to help the Celtics pull even atop the division. They’re

one-half game behind Philadelphia and visit lowly Charlotte (7-39),

which averages a league-worst 87.4 points per game.

Boston has won seven of the last nine meetings with the Bobcats,

including a 94-84 home victory on Feb. 7 behind 22 points and seven

rebounds from Kevin Garnett.

Garnett, however, wasn’t as effective in the last visit to

Charlotte, making 4 of 11 from the floor for nine points while

grabbing 14 rebounds in a 94-89 loss on Feb. 7, 2011.

The forward-center had a similar effort Sunday, getting 10

points while making 3 of 10 field goals.

Paul Pierce is averaging 22.0 points and 8.7 boards over the

last three games. He had that many points while adding six rebounds

in the latest road meeting with the Bobcats after totaling 16 in

the previous two.

Charlotte, 4-17 at home, is allowing an average of 106.3 points

during a losing streak that reached three games with a 102-89 loss

at New Jersey on Saturday. Acting coach Stephen Silas felt the

Bobcats didn’t get their up-tempo offense going until outscoring

the Nets 31-21 in the fourth quarter.

“We have to play faster,” he said. “We can’t be a slow-down

team.”

Silas could also use some improvement from Kemba Walker, who

missed 9 of 13 from the floor and all four from beyond the arc

while finishing with 10 points Saturday. The rookie guard has

struggled greatly over the last four home games, averaging 7.8

points while shooting 30.6 percent from the field.

Walker had 16 points and seven rebounds against the Celtics last

month.