Defending Stephen Curry: How Avery Bradley and the Celtics pressured the Warriors' star into a rough night

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry shot just 6-22 from the floor against the Celtics on Friday. The pitbulls came out to play.

BOSTON -- Avery Bradley is nice. That's not exactly the first thing you look for in a lockdown defender. Ornery, nasty, mean. Those are the traits one associates with being a killer on the defensive end, but Bradley is none of those things. Instead he's rather calm, exceedingly polite and, well, nice. There's no other way to put it really.

Still, there's one thing that will offend him and that's asking if he brings anything extra to match-up against say, Stephen Curry, who had been torching the league and was coming off a 54-point outburst against the Knicks. Bradley's eyes narrowed at the suggestion. He was offended.

"I want to shut down everybody, every single night," he said.

There must have been something.

"Nah," he said, pausing a moment before he continued. "If you notice, every single game I play the same way. Every single game on the defensive end. That's just how I play. That's how I've played my whole life."

I want to shut down everybody, every single night. -Avery Bradley

Curry scored 25 points in a 94-86 loss to the Celtics, but this was not a typical Curry performance. He took 22 shots and missed 16 of them, including eight misses on 11 shots behind the arc. Curry did most of his damage at the free throw line, where he converted all 10 of his attempts. Those things are related.

Curry knew what Bradley had in store for him: fullcourt pressure defense and body to body the whole way. So, he tried to get into the paint and make plays that way. His shot didn't feel right all night and he was never able to get into a rhythm. That was painfully obvious when he airballed a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner in the second half.

"It felt, I knew right away as soon as I let it go," Curry said still somewhat stunned an hour later. "I took my time and everything. It was just a weird, weird feeling. To be open and see it go that far off ... that won't happen again."

Probably not, but Curry was quick to give Bradley credit for his disruptive defense.

"That's his reputation," Curry said. "That's what he does. That's how he helps his team. I knew that coming in. I was prepared for it, but when you play heavy minutes it does add on when you have to worry about him in the backcourt and try to get the ball up the court. He's a great defender and you've got to give him credit for what he's able to do out there."

This was the match-up everyone wanted to see. Earlier in the week Courtney Lee said there was no way Curry was going for 54 against the Pitbulls, as they have been calling themselves.

True to form, Bradley jumped on Curry from the start, who got off just one shot and scored a single point on a technical free throw through the first seven minutes. When Curry came back in the game Bradley was on the bench, so he immediately went to work on Jordan Crawford and knocked down a couple of quick shots.

That was enough for Doc Rivers, who called for Lee. They were determined to make Curry work and they had help from their bigs who hedged hard on high screens.

"They helped out big time," Bradley said. "We obviously executed our gameplan. Kevin (Garnett) did a great job talking to me all night. All the bigs did a great job. Courtney, that's my other pitbull like everybody says. We just tried to make everything hard on him and Klay Thompson. Sometimes I might be tired and Kevin might see me tired and say, ‘Switch with Courtney, man. Let him pick him up.' It just shows what kind of team we are."

In the first half, Bradley played 14 minutes against Curry as the primary defender and Curry made only one of six attempts. But there was a problem. Bradley had three fouls and he picked up two quick ones early in the third quarter. Lee was also flirting with foul trouble, so Rivers called for a zone, of all things.

He asked his assistant Kevin Eastman to look it up and sure enough, Eastman told Rivers that the Warriors had only faced a zone for 70 minutes this season. "So we just went with it and it worked," Rivers said. "I mean, they missed some shots in it, but I thought the switching and the zone was really good for us."

In the hoariest of clichés it took the proverbial total team effort to slow Curry down, and truth be told, he had to be worn down after playing 48 minutes against the Knicks and another 42 on Friday. There's no doubt the Celtics were committed to the job, but for Bradley it was just another day at the office.

"I play the same every single game," he said. "I play as hard as I can."

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