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Celtics notebook: Avery Bradley plays limited minutes in return to starting lineup

February 28, 2017 GMT

Avery Bradley told himself, this was no way to play in a basketball game. The common sense in him said, there was no other way but to accept last night’s limited return to the floor after missing 22 of the previous 23 games because of a strained right Achilles.

As such, the Celtics guard played just 15 minutes and was a spectator for the second half of last night’s 114-98 loss to the Hawks.

“I wish (the playing time) was split up for the second half, but it is what it is. I just have to play as hard as I can, no matter how many minutes it was,” he said after hitting his first shot, a 3-pointer, and scoring six points on 2-for-4 shooting.

He also had three steals but was unusually smooth offensively for someone who hadn’t played since Jan. 6.

“Both Avery and I were like, ‘Maybe five more minutes or six more minutes,’ ” said coach Brad Stevens, who ultimately decided not to give in to the temptation. “But the plan going in was to play him through the first half, hopefully two good stints, about 15 minutes, and then increase that piece by piece over the next few games.”

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Asked about his ability to remain patient, Bradley said, “I’m not. I’m upset, but I have to be smart about it. I was just disappointed not being able to be out there for my teammates.”

Though Bradley sounded like he could have returned well before this, he’d rather focus on the belief he now is 100 percent.

Brown a reserve

Bradley’s presence meant a return to the bench for Jaylen Brown, who had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including 2-for-4 on 3-pointers. He was coming off back-to-back 13-point games and hit the game-winning 3-pointer Sunday night against Detroit.

“(My role) doesn’t really change. I mean, I used to come off the bench before Avery got hurt, so now it’s kind of the best of both worlds,” Brown said. “I just have to do my job. I’ve seen it before and been a part of that plan, having to stay ready and sitting, so now I’m used to it.”

Schroder still ticked

Isaiah Thomas wants to finally move beyond the issue of his cantankerous relationship with Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder, who refused to take the bait about his least-favorite opponent, saying the night was devoid of trash talking.

But from Thomas slapping Schroder off the back of the head in the playoffs last season to allegedly insulting his family the last time these teams played — a charge Isaiah denies — the young German still is carrying a serious beef.

“It is what it is,” Schroder said before the game. “We just try to compete. It gets heated in the game. . . . I didn’t do anything last game. I just try to compete, still do what I do, help the team win.

“(Thomas is) a great player. What he did in the playoffs last year was just not professional. I think nobody wants to see that, but it’s fine. We just try to compete and help our team win the basketball game.”

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All told, though, Schroder sounds comfortable with being the latest object of the Garden crowd’s ire.

“Probably my whole career when I get here,” he said. “They are probably pretty mad still that we won in the playoffs.”

Howard tossed

Dwight Howard also renewed his thorny relationship with C’s fans, getting ejected after his second technical foul for hanging on the rim, which later was rescinded by the league.

He had picked up his first for shoving Al Horford following a hard foul by the Celtics center. As the crowd honed in on Howard gave a thumbs-down sign.

“Boston’s a great place to play. I have had some battles here with Kevin Garnett and those guys,” he said. “Despite the boos, it is a great place to play.”