BOSTON -- Jeff Green scored 34 points on 19 shots in a 98-93 win over the Pistons on Wednesday night. He not only made the key shots down the stretch, he also came up with a key rebound and blocked four shots. This would have been big news except for the fact that this is becoming if not routine, then not exactly surprising.
Green had 27 points on 14 shots against the Knicks on Sunday and that was preceded by another 27-point outing against the Hawks last Friday. As a starter he came into the game averaging 21.4 points and almost 6 rebounds, which plays into a post CelticsBlog did a few days ago tying his production into an increased role.
Doc Rivers said after the game that it was "very possible" he would continue riding with the lineup that features Green and Paul Pierce together on the wing next to a pair of bigs. That configuration could look mighty interesting in the postseason when Kevin Garnett comes back and is the other big man next to Brandon Bass, but that's getting ahead of things a little bit.
What's most encouraging about Green's play is that it's not just confined to the last week. In March he averaged 17.6 points and 4.8 rebounds on 48 percent shooting. In February he averaged more than 15 points a game and shot better than 50 percent from the floor. Over the last two months he's taken 80 shots from 3-point range and made 35 of them. On top of that he's lived at the free throw line where he's attempted 133 shots and is making them at an 81 percent clip.
"I just think he's playing now," Doc Rivers said. "I don't think he worries about who's on the floor with him or anything like that. I do think that takes time though, when you're playing with Paul and Kevin and (Rajon) Rondo earlier in the year. I think that's hard. You see those three guys and you tend to think, ‘Do I, should I, be aggressive?'"
Ah yes, there's the word: aggressive. It came up no less than three times from Green himself when he was surrounded by the voracious pack of news hounds that cover the Celtics on a daily basis. An aggressive Jeff Green is a good Jeff Green. Everyone knows that and it says something that Green didn't roll the word out with his usual feigned indifference that seems to say, "You think I don't know that?"
More than that, it wasn't hard to see that even with the bright lights and an army of microphones in his face that Green seemed downright comfortable and that in and of itself is a marked turnaround from his early days in Boston.
But maybe that's projecting and we should stay grounded when it comes to discussing Green because the projections are what gets us in trouble. They burn so hot and blow so cold that they set him up for a never-ending cycle of failure and redemption. The only word used more often than aggressive with Green is consistency.
Here's what we do know. Green has added an elbow jump shot to his arsenal of moves that already featured an improved 3-point stroke and his uncanny ability to get to the rim with no more than a power dribble off his dominant right hand.
"Early in his career, even most of this year, basically it was either the corners or to the basket," Rivers said. "And now he's starting to make those shots on the elbows, which have been very good for us. And I think he's being - he's aggressive -- but he's also being patient as well."
Here's what else we know. Faced with a shorthanded roster and playing without his only legitimate big man, Rivers has turned to a lineup that features Green and Pierce on the wing with Avery Bradley in the backcourt.
This offers an obvious matchup dynamic, especially against a team like the Pistons that started the undersized backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight. Somebody had to guard Green or Pierce and once they made their decision, the Celtics attacked it.
"I think him and Paul (Pierce) are trying to figure each other out, and who has the matchup," Rivers said. "We don't know going into the game who they're going to put the small -- if there is a small -- guard on. So you have to figure that out. Doesn't take long. And then we don't want to get stuck on one side. But overall I like the way he's playing.
"It's amazing, we've practiced it all year," Rivers continued. "But Jeff just wasn't ready, honestly. Defensively. So I do like that lineup, though."
It's a lineup that features all kinds of possibilities for a team that will realistically be playing without expectations when the playoffs start. It wouldn't completely shock anyone if they somehow made it to the conference finals and it wouldn't be a stunner if they lost in the first round either. It's a lineup that as Bradley said makes them, "Very dangerous. Especially when KG comes back."
Still, let's not kid anyone. The Celtics gave up 25 offensive rebounds against the Pistons and were practically begging Detroit to steal it at the end. It took a botched open court layup from Brandon Knight and a bricktastic 2-for-17 shooting night from Charlie Villanueva to help cinch this one.
It also says something about where the Celtics are right now that the night was meaningful because they finally clinched a playoff spot and it gave them some breathing room against Milwaukee for seventh place in the East. But one can dream on a night like this with the playoffs still weeks away and Green's play is a dreamer's delight.
"You have seen a lot of flashes of that this year," Pierce said. "A lot of times teams come into this game really focused on what I'm trying to do and the scouting report. And you've got a guy like Jeff who can put up big numbers like that, who can take over like that. It's fun, it's fun to watch."
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