Jeff Green and Paul Pierce: ‘We’re two lethal threats’
|04.04.13 at 1:19 am ET|
He’s been downright dominant offensively in 11 spot starts for a resting Paul Pierce and an injured Kevin Garnett, so come playoff time, all three should be in the starting lineup. Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers seemed to concede that it’s “very possible” Green and Pierce start on the wings once Garnett returns.
“We’re playing off each other,” said Green, who scored 34 points to go with Pierce’s 17 in a 98-93 win over a Pistons team that had no matchup answers. “We’re two lethal threats on the perimeter and in the low post, so teams have to make a decision on how they want to play us. Either one of us is going to have a nice matchup.”
Added Pierce: “You’ve seen a lot of flashes of that this year. A lot of teams come into these games really focused on what I’m trying to do in the scouting report. When you’ve got a guy like Jeff who can put up big numbers like that and take over a game, it’s fun. It’s fun to watch and be a part of.”
In the final 9:06 of a game that shouldn’t have been so close, Pierce and Green scored 17 straight points until a pair of Jason Terry free throws sealed the deal in the final seconds. Green scored 11 of the C’s final 13 points. But don’t confuse his aggressiveness in Garnett’s absence a passing of the torch just yet.
“I’m not trying to take over games,” said Green, who added five boards and four blocks. “That’s why we’ve got The Truth. I’m playing off of him. We’re looking for each other. We’re being aggressive. If it’s in my hands, I’m trying to make a play. If it’s in his hands, he’s going to make a play, so we’ve just got to play off each other.”
If Pierce is The Truth, then Green is The Heart. His meteoric rise since Rajon Rondo‘s injury has coincided with his health returning to full strength after sitting out a year following surgery on an aortic aneurysm.
“For him to be playing the way that he’s playing now, he’s a warrior,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who chipped in 11 points of his own. “Personally, me and Jeff are really close, so I’m so happy that he’s playing like this. I’m just happy for him. It says a lot. It says he has a strong heart.”
Strange how the biggest knock against Green was always his heart, in a figurative sense, but now that he’s been given a new lease on life, he’s playing with an energy that’s been lacking in the first four-plus years of his career.
“I just think he’s playing now,” said Rivers. “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 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?'”
Still, Green must answer that question when the true heart of the Celtics returns in the form of Garnett.
“If he was here, I would still continue to be aggressive,” said Green. “He’ll tell you that, and he’ll tell me that, too. Everybody’s got to step up, and we have to do it as a team. As long as he’s out, we’ve just got to continue to build what we have and everybody has to step up and be aggressive. I’m just doing my part.”
That part could be be the key to any semblance of a playoff run if, as Rivers expects, Garnett comes back healthy.
“Very dangerous,” said Bradley. “Especially when KG gets back, we’ll have a three-headed monster.”
The Celtics are holding out hope that their three-headed monster — without, as LeBron James once said of Rondo, the head of the snake — could still have the heart of a champion.
“To win a championship,” said Green, “our defense has to be at its best. We’ve got to be one unit.”
One unit made up of Pierce, Garnett and now Green as starters. At least it should be that way.