Green's Night Has Some Thinking 'Superstar'

BOSTON – In the long run, a heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat might not be such a bad thing for the Boston Celtics. That is, if they have discovered a new superstar in the making.

Green, James

Jeff Green went toe-to-toe Monday night with basketball's greatest star, LeBron James.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Jeff Green showed the entire country Monday night that he has superstar potential inside his 6-foot-9 body. He went toe-to-toe with the world’s greatest basketball player and nearly won the battle.

Green scored a career-high 43 points against LeBron James and the Heat. He did so with levels of aggressiveness and confidence that we simply have not seen from him in the past.

What we have seen from Green this season is inconsistent play. Monday night initially looked like it would feature the underwhelming version of Green. He did, after all, begin the contest by missing his first field goal, by missing one of his first two free throws, and by committing a turnover all in the first few minutes of the game. That was before the consistent version of Green, the one that has been prevalent for the past couple of months, decided to show up.

“You know what I loved about Jeff, I thought the first two minutes of the game, three minutes of the game, he was struggling,” Doc Rivers said. “He missed a free throw, missed a couple of shots. And you know the old Jeff may have gone away. He actually just kept going and kept going.”

Like the Energizer Bunny.

Green was absolutely, positively and unequivocally unstoppable for the remainder of the game. Once he recognized that his work was meant to be done in the paint, and not on the perimeter, the Heat were left shaking in their sneaks.

“You know, you can’t rely on a jump shot,” Green said after his stellar performance. “I know I missed a couple at the beginning of the game. That’s when I’ve got to try to get to the free-throw line, try to get a rhythm, and I did.”

Did he ever.

Green fell into a rhythm that he has never felt before. This was a rhythm that no NBA team or fan has ever witnessed from him. This was the rhythm that Danny Ainge had always envisioned.

Green found his groove through pure power and aggression. He relentlessly attacked the basket time and time again and Miami literally had no answers for him. Not even the mighty King James could prevent Green from scoring in the paint.

“He had a tremendous game,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “He played great, he was aggressive, he was making tough plays, and he was putting a lot of pressure on our defense.”

Basically all of that pressure was released in the paint. Fourteen of Green’s 21 field goal attempts were taken in the restricted area. Nine of his 14 made shots were scored in that area. The only other location on the court where Green attempted a field goal was from beyond the 3-point arc, where he fired up seven shots that led to five makes.

Green did excel from long range, but the true component to his dominance was his success in the paint. That’s where he and the Celtics believed he could excel against this Heat team. It just took a few minutes of the game for him to act on that belief.

“There will be nights where he has an advantage, and there will be nights where he will not,” Rivers explained. “We thought going into the game he would have that advantage, and we took advantage of it.”

To be specific, that advantage was Green’s athleticism against Miami’s forwards. Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem garnered the bulk of the defensive minutes against Green, while James and Chris Andersen saw some spurts as well. Boston believed that Green owned a sizable athletic advantage over most of those players and that’s why they spread the floor. That allowed him to go to work off of the dribble.

At that point, Miami had a better chance of finding a four-leaf clover than stopping Green. He blew past any and every defender that attempted to get in his way.

This dominant performance was both impressive and enlightening. He did what he did against the league’s best team; against one of the NBA’s most elite defensive groups. Meanwhile, Green also gave us all a glimpse of the incredible potential that is beginning to brew inside his Iron Man body.

Let’s not forget that 14 months prior to the open-lane surgery he performed Monday night on the Heat, Green was lying on a hospital bed having open-heart surgery performed on himself. That surgery led to an inconsistent Green over the first few months of the season. Over the past couple of months, however, he has turned into a different player. He is becoming more consistent and he’s showing glimpses of a true star in the making.

“He’s capable of whatever when he puts his mind to it,” Paul Pierce said following Monday’s game. “You know, he’s showed flashes of what he can do throughout the season when he’s focused, when he’s locked in, and that was an example of it today.”

Monday’s 43-point outburst was an example of what a superstar performance looks like. That word is typically reserved for names like Pierce, Garnett, Rondo, James and Wade when the Heat and Celtics face off. If Monday’s version of Green happens to stick around, that group may need to make room for one more.