by Zettler Clay IV
Last offseason, Jeff Green failed his physical, had his contract voided and underwent heart surgery. He missed the whole lockout-shortened season.
This year he is back, giving us enough doses of throwdowns and highlights to provide some glamour in an injury-riddled season for the Celtics. Since lighting up Miami for 43 points a couple of weeks ago, he has scored 13, 10, 12, 19 and 21 in five games following. In the latter performance, he granted us another highlight: a game-winner at the rim as time expired to lift the C’s 93-92 over the Cavs.
With a head start because of sagging defense, Green knifed his way into the paint with a nifty up-and-under, giving the struggling Celtics a breath of fresh air for the moment. Boston was on its way to six straight losses before Green’s shot. With Kevin Garnett hobbled, Green’s offensive punch is needed now more than ever. And he delivered, sending the Cavs to their 48th loss of the year and closer to another top lottery pick (and more Cleveland luck).
For those that are new around these parts, the Horry scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?) and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does Green’s finish Wednesday night stack up? Without further ado…
Well, this wasn’t the most complicated of shots. The Cavaliers are no strangers to the scouting report and defended accordingly, blanketing Paul Pierce like he was a nugget during the Gold Rush. With 10 eyes on Pierce, Avery Bradley found an unmolested Green at the top of the key. Armed with a head of steam, he used his long strides and took advantage of lax (read: very lax) resistance. His finish was reminiscent of a first-quarter blown defensive assignment than a typical last-second contested shot. Excellent concentration by Green at the cup with time against him.
The Celtics were down one with 2.1 seconds left. Prior to the last play, Alonzo Gee knocked the ball out of Pierce’s hands out of bounds. This was a blessing in disguise for Doc Rivers, who used the official’s replay to concoct a last-gasp scoring set. A miss would’ve given the Celtics eight losses out of their last 10 games.
This was another high in a season full of highs and lows for Green. He can tantalize with his end-to-end athleticism, but can befuddle with his tendency to disappear at times. In March, he is posting over 15 ppg on 47 percent shooting (37 percent from land of trey) and becoming a go-to scorer down the stretch. Recovering from aortic surgery, he continues to show that once fully activated, he is a force.
“Jeff wanted the ball at the end. He asked for it by the way he was looking at me in the huddle,” said Celtics coach Rivers. “He clearly wanted the basketball. I sensed that and everybody sensed that, so I called the play for him.”
For the Celtics, the playoffs are approaching. They are currently seeded 7th, 2 1/2 games above the Milwaukee Bucks (who are also struggling). Neither team desires a first-round series against the Heat — though I’m sure Boston would give them every thing it has. Wins like this on the road aren’t the easiest to come by, even if the decimated Cavaliers are the opponent. Cleveland receives another heartbreak in a
history season full of them.
The backdrop of Green’s chest thump clashed against the dejected home crowd perfectly. With colorful personalities like Jason Terry, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as teammates, Green is blending in well in the celebration department, giving yells and staredowns with the best of them this season. Against the Cavs, he didn’t spare the (minor) histrionics. Very definitive in the face of 17,000 silent fans, yet not over the top.
3 1/2 Horrys. As for as difficulties go, this was the easiest GWBB this season. Though Boston was down prior to the play, Cleveland’s matador D made this play more smooth for Green than it should’ve been. Credit the Celtics (Rivers, especially) for finding the seam in the defense and having the guts to use their Hall-of-Famer as a decoy. This trust in his team could go a long way come May.
What sayeth you?