On a lot of other nights, it would have been “the Jeff Green game.”
Kevin Durant took care of that with one of the greatest nights in NBA playoff history, but even Durant’s instant classic showing didn’t fully eclipse a spectacular shooting night from Brooklyn’s veteran forward in the Nets’ 114-108 Game 5 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Jeff Green was unbelievable,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “Incredible performance. Kept us in the game for long stretches of it where it could've got away from us and we weren't playing well. I mean, he didn't miss for a long, long time and kept us in it. And so, for a guy who is coming off an injury, who has been a big part of our team this year — to step up and show that maturity, that veteran presence, that winning mentality tonight was unbelievable. So, Kevin's performance tonight was historic, but Jeff's the one that kept us in the game for a long, long time.”
In his second game back after missing six games with a plantar fascia strain, Green finished with 27 points while making 7-of-8 3-pointers and 8-of-11 shots overall.
“He came out there and set the tone for us at the 3-point line to start the game,” said Durant. “I think we fed off of that — 7-for-8 from the three for him and off the bench. That was huge — huge — for us and we needed every one of those shots.”
With the Nets searching for offense early on, it took two 3-pointers from Green in the first quarter just to get Brooklyn to 15 points. Then he and Durant made back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second quarter and combined for 18 points in the quarter just to keep the Nets within 16 points at halftime.
Nash slotted Green in to start the second half after he came off the bench to start the game and he opened the third quarter with another 3-pointer. With the Nets still trailing by 16 midway through the quarter, Green followed a Durant drive with another three, Landry Shamet followed with a 3-pointer of his own, and the Milwaukee lead was cut in half in a blink. The Brooklyn offense took off from there.
With the Nets leading by a point late in the game, Green’s seventh 3-pointer — on seven attempts at that point — put Brooklyn up 104-100. It was one of those nights where with each shot, his momentum and confidence grew.
“It grew. Definitely grew. I just tried to take the shots that was there,” said Green. “They packed the paint a lot and a lot of eyes are gonna be on Kevin when he’s driving or James is driving so I just wanted to be in their sight to try to get an open look and they left me open so I decided to continue to take the shots and they kept falling. When the next one came I decided to keep shooting. That’s how it worked out. I’m glad they went down at the time they did.”
Signed shortly before training camp started, Green became an integral piece for Brooklyn while putting up career high shooting percentages from 3-point range and overall. He slid between the forward and center spots while starting 38 of 68 games, ranking second on the team in games played and third in minutes played while playing through the plantar fascia issues that finally sidelined him when he aggravated it in Game 2 of the first round series against Boston.
He returned in Game 4 against Milwaukee, just in time to play a huge role in Brooklyn’s crucial Game 5 win.
“It felt good,” said Green. “Just to be out there on the floor felt good. To get this W, that’s what’s most important. That’s what I fight hard for. That’s what I leave it out on the court for to do whatever my team needs me to do. That’s what it’s all about. That’s just one game. We’ve got a 3-2 lead now and the playoffs don’t start until you’ve won a game on the road. So we’ve gotta go to Milwaukee and try to take care of business.”