Green Light: Jeff Green Sends Message to LeBron, the Heat and Celtics Fans

The Miami Heat visited Boston last night and won a playoff game that took place in the regular season. Game #66 for both teams. The Heat won their 23rd straight game. Meanwhile, the Celtics are in a tug-of-war for home court advantage with five teams. As you may have heard, Miami is currently on the second longest streak in NBA history. Only the 1971-72 Lakers, who won an insane 33 straight games, are ahead of them. Miami’s current run dwarfs the 2008 Celtics’ mark of 18 consecutive wins, and will make NBA fans forget about the Los Angeles Clippers’ 17-game-run this past December. In fact, for a team that took the league by storm in December, the Clippers have been struggling to hang onto the 3rd seed in the West now that Denver and Memphis have hit their own strides. What does this tell us? In case we needed reminding, the 82-game regular season has its ebbs and its flows. It also tells us every team is not accurately measured by its current record, despite Bill Belichick’s oft-repeated platitude. Thirty games without Avery Bradley and with a recovering Jeff Green are not thirty games with these Celtics, that should be clear. Whatever anyone else wants to say about these Boston Celtics, they are capable of playing toe-to-toe, foot-to-foot, and hip-to-hip against these Miami Heat. If they meet again in the postseason, no matter the round, the series will go at least six games, and no team will push Miami harder than these Celtics, with the possible exception of the Indiana Pacers.

The game itself lived up to the expectations. Not only did the Heat enter on this historic streak, but the game was a rematch of last year’s seven-game Eastern Conference Finals. Boston and Miami played a memorable overtime thriller at the end of January, in which the Celtics pulled out a 100-98 win. You might remember it as “The Game That We Found Out About Rondo’s Knee.” This game was equally memorable. The crowd was electric, buzzing from the opening tip, which was fittingly taken by Jeff Green in Kevin Garnett’s absence. Garnett missed his second straight with a strained adductor muscle (inner thigh) as well as the flu. In his absence, Jeff Green unleashed himself from the opening tip, and put on a show that should give Celtics fans reassurance about the post-Garnett era in Boston.

After missing his first look, a 25-footer from the top of the key (not his sweet spot, which is the left corner), Green simply took flight. The Heat are using LeBron at the power forward this year, a key reason for their dominant defensive season, which creates match-up nightmares for opponents trying to defend LeBron with their typical 4-men. Playing the power forward position in place of Garnett, Green was defended by a combination of players not named Lebron, who was given the assignment of making life impossible for Pierce. Spoelstra was effectively daring Green to have a career night with Garnett out, and Green answered with a resounding, “Bring it!”

Green’s performance last night would accurately be described as: inspired, otherworldly, magnificent, ridiculous, assertive-yet-controlled, hyper-focused, devastating, and wonderful.

Few players are able to drop in 43-points within the flow of the offense, but that is what Green did. Like Steph Curry’s 54-point barrage on the Knicks with David Lee on the sideline, Green filled in for Garnett’s absence by necessity. Listening to the persuasive voice of Doc Rivers, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce and finally, himself, Green took on the challenge and took his assertiveness to a new level. Like LeBron, who can guard multiple positions and create match-up problems on offense, Green has the versatility to stretch the floor from the corner against slower power forwards and the slashing ability and length to get to the rim against teams that lack an interior presence. An example from earlier this season of Green’s ability to take over a game: 31 points on 14 shots against the Suns, in addition to 5 blocks and 2 steals.

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