Since the All-Star break, Jeff Green has really come into his own and is playing with a ton of confidence on a nightly basis. In the first half of the season, Green was tentative and would only take the ball aggressively to the basket on a few occasions, and would rarely stay in that mode throughout an entire game. It’s very possible that he was still recovering from his heart surgery and gauging what his body would allow him to do. Now it’s evident that he’s fully healthy, playing at the top of his game, almost at the same level he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that he is capable of taking over games, but now he’s consistently scoring 15 to 25 points a night.
It’s not just his athletic ability that makes him an important asset to the team, but because he’s such a unique player, he’s causing matchup problems for the Celtics opponents. First let’s take a look at the game in which he scored 43 points on the Miami Heat.
No matter who was covering Green, the Miami Heat could no stop him. They tried Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, Chris Andersen, and Udonis Haslem and not one of them could even slow Green down. It wasn’t their lack of ability to play defense, or how Miami went about their overall defense, but Green’s length alone put him one level higher than his defenders.
In the highlights Green constantly went to the hoop and made the layup over a Heat player, or drew the foul with the chance of converting an old-fashioned three point play. However, Miami gave him way too much space to operate, and Green could either knock down the wide open three or drive aggressively to the basket. The Heat aren’t the only victims of Green’s length and offensive firepower. Next up is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In this game, Cleveland did a much better job attempting to stop Jeff Green, but to no avail. Just as against the Heat, Green was outreaching and shooting over anyone who defended him. He also started attacking the basket with his left hand, which is something he didn’t do up until this week. If he can develop a driving layup on the left side he’s going to be an unstoppable force. His athletic ability alone is hard to matchup against, but adding a few weapons in his arsenal will make him a potent threat on the offensive end.
On the last play of that game, Green drove into the paint and got an uncontested layup to get the win. There may have been two defenders in the vicinity with their hands up, but they weren’t even close to swatting the ball out of Green’s hands. That’s the extension Jeff Green brings. He’s a 6’9″ power forward/small forward who creates issues for opponents on offense because he’s not a traditional forward. He’s not big enough to take on stronger power forwards, but he’s quick and long enough to take on player like Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Green really is a marvel, which makes him a special player in the league.
The latest victim was the Atlanta Hawks. Green finished with 27 points, and once again there was no one playing for Atlanta who could at least slow him down.
The biggest mistake Atlanta made was not having Josh Smith cover Green the entire night. In the highlights from last night, there is one small but subtle thing that no one has brought up. Because Green is an offensive threat, Paul Pierce has been given better looks at the basket. Pierce finished with a triple double, scoring 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. In the three games above, players who would have had to focus on Pierce, payed more attention to Green, which completely spread the floor thin for the defense.
Against Miami, Green had lanes to the basket because Pierce was on the floor at the same time. It may not seem like it now, but this duo at the forward positions is going to benefit the team heading into the playoffs, and maybe into next season. Jeff Green can extend Pierce’s career just by being on the floor. He makes the defense worry about another threat, which leaves the door wide open for the Captain.
Before the season began, many fans questioned Danny Ainge’s decision of signing Green to a 4 year $36 million contract. But since early February no one has brought up his contract once, and instead are enjoying what Green has been displaying for the past month and a half. Right now, fans are witnessing the torch being passed down from Pierce to Green. It’s a slow transition, one that might not be noticeable, but a new era is being ushered in, and one that Celtics fans should embrace with open arms.