Green seeks next-level defense

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Jeff Green is showing better consistency over the last three games.WALTHAM, Mass. -- As the Boston Celtics' bench starts to put together a more consistent brand of basketball, so too has one of its key cogs: Jeff Green.

Over the past three contests, Green is averaging 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists over 23.7 minutes per game. Up and down at times over the first 33 games of the season, Green has put together a solid little stretch that included feasting on Steve Novak in New York; celebrating his one-year anniversary from heart surgery by leading the team in scoring against Phoenix; and a hustle-filled effort against the Rockets.

But while the focus with Green is often his offense and the SportsCenter-worthy dunks, he points to the other end of the floor as the key for Boston's second-unit success.

"Getting stops, plain and simple," he said.

Green's individual defense has quietly been fantastic. According to Synergy Sports data, Green is allowing a mere 0.721 points per play this season, ranking him in the 91st percentile among all players. But narrow that list down to all players with at least 200 defensive plays this season and Green actually ranks ninth overall (only teammate Jared Sullinger -- 0.718 points per play, seventh overall -- is better for Boston this season).

Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges that Green is using his size and athleticism to bottle up opposing players, but needs to improve in Boston's help system.

"He has to improve defensively," said Rivers. "If Jeff has one area, that’s the area. It’s not on the ball, he’s pretty good there. It’s usually in rotations, then stopping the guy he’s rotating to. He’s long and he’s not used to getting down defensively, but that’s an area he has to improve for us.

"That’s his next step, though."

Green takes a great deal of pride in the strides made by Boston's second unit. Not only is that group developing chemistry and thriving as a group, but they have shouldered the load for Boston in recent games. That has taken a great deal of the pressure of Boston's starters.

"Those are our guys, those are our horses," said Green. "They're going to keep us in games, they're going to win games for us. We want them fresh, and in order for them to be fresh, we've got to continue to do what we're doing, and that's putting pressure on the opposing team and their second unit. I feel like with our second unit, we can start on any team in this league, and the way we've been playing, it's hurting the second units of opposing teams. So we've just got to continue to do that."