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Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace shared the floor for an extended stretch Sunday.For much of the preseason we've been intrigued by the possible lineup combination of Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace, but haven't seen it much. The two are both natural small forwards and, this time of year, are more likely to back each other up than play together. But coach Brad Stevens gave the pairing its longest run of the exhibition season Sunday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Montreal to encouraging results.
The NBA doesn't track preseason lineup data in its available stats package, but by our very unscientific count, Green and Wallace shared the floor for a total of 14 minutes, 35 seconds on Sunday, including an 8 ½-minute glimpse to start the second half. The results?
Boston was plus-5 with the Green/Wallace combo on the floor, outscoring the Timberwolves 35-30. The Celtics shot 50 percent (13 of 26 overall) from the floor with 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals, a block and two turnovers (not bad when you consider that means Boston shot 33.3 percent when the duo was not on the floor together). Minnesota shot 42.9 percent (9 of 21 overall) with 11 rebounds, seven assists, one steal, four blocks, and five turnovers.
The Celtics mixed the personnel around the duo, pairing them with Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger to start the second half. That left Green often attempting to defend smaller guards and Boston was just plus-1 over the first 8:21 of the second half.
Where Boston enjoyed its most success with the combo was as a sub lineup in the first quarter. Green subbed for Bass with 6:21 to play in the frame (while rookie Kelly Olynyk replaced Courtney Lee) leaving the group on the floor with Bradley and Sullinger. The Celtics were down 18-7 at the initial substitution, but went on an 11-2 burst over the first two minutes to briefly make it a one-possession game.
Is the Green/Wallace lineup sustainable? Given that Green is supposed to be Boston's go-to guy and Wallace has been among the league leaders in minutes during his career, the two should naturally overlap on the floor despite playing the same position. We need to see more of the pair together, and with different players around them, to know if and how it can truly thrive.
But it sounds like we'll most definitely see more of the combo.
“I’d have to look at the overall numbers on it, but I thought we were pretty good in that stretch -- both in the first half and [to open] the second half," Stevens told reporters in Montreal. “We played them together some in the first half where we played big on the wings, and we played them some together at the start of the second half. It’s probably a 10- or 12-minute clip of that. And, based on how it went tonight, I would say that you’ll probably see that again."
For a Celtics team with an non-ideal mix of players -- including logjams at the shooting guard and power forward spots -- being creative with their most talented players will be key to being competitive. While Green has slumped for much of the preseason, he's shown more aggression lately and has said in the past that playing with Wallace intrigues him. Wallace, who took the second night of a pair of preseason back-to-backs off, has been one of Boston's most consistent performers when he's on the floor, especially in terms of bringing energy and effort.
For one game at least, it was an encouraging takeaway from an effort thin on positives.