Boston's Jeff Green at work Friday versus the Blazers.BOSTON -- Consistency has arguably been Jeff Green's biggest adversary this season.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has acknowledged it; general manager Danny Ainge has done the same. Even Green himself admitted earlier this year after one of his better outings that he had been playing "lackadaisical" at times.
But every so often, Green comes through with a standout performance, highlighted mainly by double-figure scoring, and the Celtics typically win as a result. After Green scored 19 points in 23 minutes in Boston's 96-78 win over the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night, the Celtics moved to 5-1 in games in which Green has scored 10 or more points. Not surprisingly, those standout games often feature the Green who attacks the rim, breaks out in transition and gets to the free throw line.
The question -- one the Celtics have been trying to answer all season -- is how to get that effort from Green night in and night out.
"I just gotta do it," Green offered after Friday's win. "That's about it."
Simple enough, right? As simple as Green sometimes makes it look on the court, at least. Friday saw him up against a nonchalant Portland defense and he was quick to take advantage with a host of strong drives to the rim and multiple trips to the line. Fourteen of Green's 19 points came in a breakaway second quarter that saw the Celtics turn a seven-point first-quarter edge into a 23-point halftime lead.
Posting up on Sasha Pavlovic just over a minute into the second frame, Green spun toward the baseline, rose up, hung in the air, absorbed the contact from Jared Jeffries, and slammed the ball home, adding in the bonus free throw for good measure. Other would-have-been-thunderous dunks that resulted in free throws came later, one on a breakaway sprint in the open court and the other on a strong right-side attack. By halftime, it was apparent the right knee Green sprained in Wednesday's loss to the Nets wasn't an issue. He rode a stationary bike before entering, just to be safe.
While there might not yet be a pattern to Green's noteworthy nights, his timing Friday couldn't have been better, with extra contributions needed with Rajon Rondo serving the first of his two-game suspension. Friday's Green was the one Boston needs all the time -- the one who gravitates toward those rim-shaking plays, as if no game can be complete without one.
"We’ve just got to keep doing it. One game, it was great," Rivers said of Green. "What we’re trying to get him to see is, when he’s at the 3 he’s a power player; when he’s at the 4 he’s a speed player. And that’s how he has to look at himself. And our guys did a good job of getting him the ball as well.”
The group aspect of this ordeal does hold some importance. As much as Green needs to put the onus on his own shoulders, Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn was, at least in some ways, an exercise in expressing support for one another. Green simply might need the reminders right now until playing the way he played Friday becomes more habit than anything.
"Some nights [Green's] going to have an advantage, some nights he's not," said Kevin Garnett. "But, Jeff's a real, real talented player, and we've just got to continue to promote him, continue to be a teammate, support him in everything he's doing. Nights when he's not having it, try to get him easy baskets, as we all do. Some nights, some of us aren't going to have it going, but, as a unit, we're out there to make it easy on each other, so Jeff's no different from that."
The ease with which Green began Friday's game appeared to pay dividends later on. His final five points came in the fourth quarter -- a slick up-and-under along the baseline off of a feed from Garnett, and a backbreaking 3-pointer from the left corner with 9:02 to play that vaulted Boston's lead back over the 20-point mark.
"When you get easy layups, get to the free throw line, it creates a rhythm," said Green. "So, that's what I did. I tried to continue with it and my teammates found me on a couple other plays.
"That's how you get going. That's how you get a rhythm. So, I've got to continue to attack, continue to put pressure on the defense."
The more consistently Jeff Green does that, the better off the Celtics will be.