Green Making First Postseason Start vs. Former Celtics Team
BOSTON – May 3, 2013 was the last time Jeff Green started a postseason game at TD Garden.
The 6-foot-9 forward played a key role for the Boston Celtics that night in Game 6 of the first round against the New York Knicks, but his team-high 21 points were not enough to keep Boston alive as it fell by eight points in a season-ending defeat.
Fast-forward five years to May 27, 2018, and Green is preparing for his next start at TD Garden. Once again, it’s an elimination game. Only this time, he’s suiting up for the opposition.
Green will enter Cleveland’s starting lineup Sunday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Finals, while facing his former team at his former arena. The 31-year-old vet will take the place of Kevin Love, who entered concussion protocol after colliding with Jayson Tatum Friday night during the first quarter of Game 6 in Cleveland.
“It's a lot," Green said Sunday morning when asked what the opportunity to start Game 7 means to him. "It's a chance to go to the Finals. I'm prepared. So, it will be fun."
Love was forced to exit Game 6 just five minutes after tip-off, but Green played a critical role in keeping the Cavs' postseason alive.
Green tallied 14 points off the bench, while logging 31 minutes of playing time during the 109-99 win. However, his defensive versatility is what made the biggest difference. And that’s what Cavs coach Ty Lue believes will be most critical Sunday night.
"He attacked the small guys, the switches, and took his time, did a good job attacking and rebounded the ball well," Lue said of Green’s impact during Game 6. "I just think defensively being able to switch and guard multiple positions, that's huge for us. He was able to switch a lot more, we were able to do a lot of different stuff defensively. He came through for us."
Another benefit of having Green in the starting rotation is his chemistry with LeBron James. Their collective combination of athleticism and versatility allows them to feed off of each other, just as they showed during Game 6.
Three of Green’s four field goal makes during that game came off of dishes from James. Two of those passes resulted in slam-dunks.
“They played well together,” said Lue. “I think they’re two guys with similar size that can switch a lot of different things. Both can handle the basketball, both can pass the ball. Jeff can also run the floor, so when LeBron gets the outlet, Jeff’s running and having the big guys trying to chase him to guard him and he gets easy baskets. I’m happy they’re playing well together, so we have to continue with that.”
While there are some benefits to having Green in the starting lineup, there certainly are some drawbacks when taking Love’s absence into account.
Love averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds per game through the first five contests of the series, and his long-range shooting prowess enabled the Cavs to space the floor to a great extent. Green is not nearly the rebounder, nor the shooter that Love is, so Cleveland will have to find a way to collectively make up for those areas of Love’s game.
Regardless of Love’s availability, however, James believes Cleveland would have been up for a difficult task no matter what.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup or who’s not in the lineup. It’s always challenging to try to win a playoff game,” said James.
Especially when that game is being played in a hostile environment.
There is no better place in the NBA for home court advantage than TD Garden, and the Celtics have backed that up with a 10-0 record at home this postseason.
“I expect it to be loud,” Green said of the atmosphere, cracking a smile. “I expect the crowd to be very into it. I mean it’s Boston, so I don’t expect it to be any other way.”
Green understands the impact of TD Garden more than most, having spent four seasons, including two playoff runs, on its parquet floor.
However, those experiences are quite different than what he is about to face Sunday night. This time, Celtics Nation will not be on his side. So, he’ll have to lock in to a different level of focus in his starting role in order to help the Cavaliers avoid elimination.