Jeff Green rises up, dunks frustration

BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo started to stand up from the bench in anticipation of what was about to happen before Jeff Green even reached the paint.

It was Rondo's point guard sense, the ability to see things develop a second before anyone else. As Green swooped in from the corner, it was almost as if Rondo knew what was about to unfold.

Sure enough, with one powerful and punishing thrust, Green wiped away any lingering frustrating from a slow start to the 2012-13 season, all at the expense of poor Al Jefferson. Green soared over the top of a leaping Jefferson, who could only recoil as Green delivered a monster one-handed jam on top of the Utah Jazz big man, sending the Garden into an utter frenzy.

Rondo, sidelined with a sprained right ankle sustained a quarter earlier, couldn't contain himself. He hopped four times on his left foot while spilling onto the floor in celebration. The Celtics on the bench were falling over themselves at what just occurred.

Green's emphatic slam highlighted Boston's 98-93 triumph over the Jazz Wednesday night at TD Garden and added a rare bit of fire to a sleepy game that the Celtics nearly kicked away in the final minute.

Green finished with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, adding four rebounds and two assists over 27:17. More importantly, after entering the game a team-worst minus-40 overall in plus/minus for the season, Green was plus-12 as he and Leandro Barbosa teamed up to carry the Celtics on a night in which Rondo and the veterans took a backseat.

Players tried their best to put the moment into words after the game, but it's the image of an injured Rondo bouncing around in celebration that tells you all you need to know about the dunk.

"Oh, that was incredible," said Jason Terry. "That was top 5, all-time, that I've seen in live action. It was a nice move."

Added coach Doc Rivers: "It was huge -- in a lot of ways. It was a great dunk, it was great for the team, it was great to see all the guys cheering for him, [and] great to see the crowd. So, those are little plays that will just keep him going, and it keeps him aggressive."

Green has struggled to maintain that aggressiveness early in the new season. When it's on, he attacks the hoop and good things happen, like in the second half of Saturday's win in Milwaukee. And again on Wednesday night.

The Celtics were up four with a little more than seven minutes to play when Kevin Garnett drew traffic in the paint. He kicked to the corner to Green, who swooped around a charging Paul Millsap and didn't even blink when Al Jefferson stepped into the circle.

Jefferson turned his shoulder like a quarterback about to be swallowed by the rush as Green rose up and delivered the right-handed jam with an outstretched arm as both Millsap and Derrick Favors watched helplessly nearby.

"I just tried to make a play at the rim, and I just got higher than Al," said Green. "That's about it. It's two points and it kept us a good lead, so it was a good play. Hopefully it will be on 'SportsCenter.' We'll see."

Oh, it'll be on "SportsCenter." That thing ought to be in heavy rotation straight through Thursday afternoon. The image of a player mumbling one-word answers while down on himself for his lack of production last week has essentially been erased by a highlight-reel play that hints at the impact Green can have on this team.

Pressed on how the dunk felt, the low-key Green couldn't hide his own excitement.

"Yes, it felt great," he said. "I mean, I have been playing a little lackadaisical, as far as the effort before [the past few games]. So, it felt good to get that. It kind of boosts your confidence up and it gets you going a little bit, so it felt good to get that to go down."

About the only downside was that Green got tagged with a technical foul for his post-dunk stare-down of Jefferson. His teammates pledged to pay his fine. Yes, the dunk was so incredible that co-workers were willing to pay the $2,000 technical fine for a player who signed a four-year, $36 million contract this offseason.

"We all pitched in for him, because Jeff doesn't get many techs. So, we kind of liked it," said Terry.

After an initial offensive outburst in Milwaukee on Saturday, Garnett suggested Green had to play like an "a--hole."

Garnett could be seen barking happily at Green after he got tagged with the tech. Garnett clearly didn't mind giving up a free throw for that outburst of aggression (and Utah missed the freebie, anyhow).

In fact, Garnett seemed to be using it as a gimme-more-of-that moment.

"I can't tell you [what Garnett said]," said Green. "I mean, use your imagination. Think Kevin Garnett -- let's just say it was explicit. You know, he said it to me the other day -- what I need to be. That's basically what he said."

The Celtics loved the play because this is what they expected from Green. This is the type of player Boston desired when it acquired him from Oklahoma City at the trade deadline in 2011. This is the player they knew they were missing when he sat out the entire 2011-12 season while undergoing surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm.

Now, they just want Green to keep being a you-know-what. And if he keeps putting opponents on posters, the rest of the league is certainly going to think of him as one.