Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green provided his latest tantalizing offensive effort Monday, flirting with his third 30-point outing in the past 10 games as he went for 29 points on 11-of-22 shooting in a 102-86 triumph over the basement-dwelling Milwaukee Bucks.
Green scored 11 fourth-quarter points to help the Celtics race away and it was in that stretch that he provided maybe the most encouraging individual sign by consistently knocking down a mid-range jumper that's been no friend of his this season.
Green finished 5-of-6 shooting in the mid-range on Monday night, an intriguing glimpse considering Green has been shooting just 31.4 percent from mid-range this season (55 of 175).
We know Green can score going at the basket. He's excellent in the corner, shooting nearly 40 percent from that spot beyond the arc this season. But the Celtics and coach Brad Stevens have put a heavy emphasis recently on getting Green shots in the mid-range, both on catch-and-shoot opportunities coming off screens and in the pick-and-roll.
Struggling with his shot a bit early on Monday night, Green drew the ire of Stevens when he passed up an open look off a screen late in the first half. Stevens implored Green and his teammates to take those open looks in the second half and it's a big reason why Boston raced away in the final frame.
The usual disclaimers apply to Monday's game: The Bucks were playing without much of their primary talent and own just nine wins this season (two of which came at the expense of Boston). You can nitpick that, despite his excellent offensive night, the 6-foot-9 Green managed to grab just one rebound in 44 minutes, when 5-foot-11 Phil Pressey doubled that total.
But let's focus on the good here, not the bad. Green realized early on that his 3-point shot wasn't falling and got himself going by being aggressive going to the basket. As Celtics fans know all too well, Green has a propensity to stop attacking the basket, but his consistency in the mid-range ensured he was an offensive factor the entire game against Milwaukee.
Maybe the most encouraging sequence came early in the fourth quarter. Boston owned a two-point lead entering the frame and got a defensive stop out of the gates. Green then took a little handoff from rookie Kelly Olynyk at the top of the circle and used the rookie as a screen for a 17-foot jumper.
Green registered a steal at the other end of the floor and, when he couldn't find an outlet pass, dribbled the ball up the court himself. Sensing he had rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo on his heels, Green pulled up for an 18-foot jumper from the right side that forced Milwaukee to call timeout.
Green's a different player when he's confident in his shot and he made some big ones in the fourth frame, including a 3-pointer off a pretty dish from Jerryd Bayless, a tough baseline fadeaway and a strong right-handed drive when he caught a mismatch.
There will be those who joke that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge should have been working the phones after Monday's game. Green is seemingly only increasing his potential trade value with offensive outbursts like this and, if the Celtics believe he's reached his ceiling, then it might be in their best interest to explore what a contender might be willing to give up for him.
But it's nights like Monday that also leave you wondering if there is more to Green. This is the sort of output many expected when the Celtics were without Rajon Rondo at the start of the season and Green was forced to be the focal point. Two of Green's biggest outings recently have come in games that Rondo sat out on the second night of back-to-backs.
Which, of course, makes you wonder just how much Green could thrive when the Celtics do have a rust-removed Rondo, a healthy Avery Bradley and an emerging Jared Sullinger. Could Green finally meet the pundits' lofty expectations when some of the spotlight is off of him?
The only discouraging aspect of his recent emergence is that, over the last 10 games, Boston still owns an offensive rating of just 96.8 when Green is on the floor. That number does spike to 102.4 in Boston's five wins in that span, but it's at 89.9 in the losses, speaking to the inconsistencies that fans lament with Green.
What's undeniable is that, rebounding aside, Green is having an excellent February. We're seeing progress that wasn't always on display earlier this season. The questions are can he keep it up as the competition gets better and, if offers for his services trickle in, is Boston committed to keeping him around to find out?