The starters have been carrying this team for the first 2 games of the playoffs while the bench is coming up very small so far. The reserves have contributed a grand total of 22 points combined and just 19 rebounds (11 of which were by Big Baby) in the 2 games. Worse, in game 2 they squandered a 10 point first half lead which resulted in negative +/- stats across the board.
Everyone in the 2nd unit is struggling. Glen Davis has had his moments, but he's been inconsistent at best and a far step down from where he was earlier in the year when he was a 6th man award contender (he finished 4th in voting). Delonte West hesitated too much shooting the ball in game 1 and was more aggressive but equally ineffective in game 2. Nenad Krstic has found himself in the short leash club, logging less than 8 minutes across the two games.
Still, the one guy that stands out by not standing out is Jeff Green. He was the centerpiece of the Kendrick Perkins trade (ever wonder why it isn't called "the Jeff Green trade?" but I digress). With Shaquille O'Neal on the shelf (for who knows how long), it would make me feel a whole lot better if we were getting something out of the guy we gave up Perkins for.
Jeff Green has a lot of talent and his skills would be very handy in a series like this. He's a versatile scorer, he has enough athleticism to keep pace in the transition game, and he's a legitimate matchup nightmare for defenders (he can take small forwards down on the post and draw bigs out to the perimeter). He even has the potential (in the right system and playing the 3 instead of the 4) to be a solid defender.
So what gives? Why does he still look hesitant and unsure of himself? He hit one big three pointer in game 2 (kudos to him for that) but other than that I can't really remember anything he's contributed.
He's played 28 games with the Celtics now and the excuse of "picking up the system" is long out the window. Especially since the playbook was reduced by half headed into the playoffs. Ok, so he's a former starter turned bench player. So what? If anything that should be an advantage because the overall quality of the players you match up with will be lower because the starters are slowing down or getting a rest on the bench.
Now, before we go too far down this road, allow me to point out that we're looking at a small sample size of 2 games. And of course with lower minute totals his overall production won't match what he put up in OKC as a starter (and in fact the stats guys like Zach Lowe tell us that his production is about what it always has been on a percentage basis). And finally, he's not being asked to lead the team when there are several future Hall of Famers walking around. Still, the second unit could really use a guy like him to step up and contribute on both ends of the court.
Jeff Green has one of those easy gaits that makes him look like he's not going as hard as the next guy, but before you know it he's past the last line of defense and open for a wide open layup. He never gets too high or too low emotionally, he just takes what the game gives him. So I'm not going to sit here and accuse him of not trying hard enough because I'm sure nobody feels the pressure to perform more than him. On the other hand, there's just something about his demeanor that gives me pause.
The playoffs have a way of separating the quick from the dead. You have to be aggressive and completely without conscience or short term memory. This is a big reason why Nate Robinson was able to come up for us a few times in the playoffs last year. This is why I'm largely not worried at all about Delonte West and have full confidence that eventually Glen Davis is going to almost singe-handedly win us a game at least once in this year's playoffs. Those guys all have "it" in them to rise to the occasion even if it is only for a game or so. I'm hoping that Jeff Green has some of "it" as well, but I have yet to see evidence of it.
There's still time though. I really, really want to like this guy. Nothing would make me happier than to see him go off for 20 points in the next game. He's got the kind of talent that GMs salivate over. I just hope he has the kind of demeanor that lends itself to winning playoff basketball games.