BOSTON (CBS) – Jeff Green enjoyed his best game in a Boston uniform on Monday, but it still wasn’t enough for the Celtics to halt the Miami Heat from winning their 23rd straight game.
And for the Celtics forward, that’s all that matters.
“I’m mad we lost. It sucks,” Green said after the 105-103 defeat by Miami.
Forget that Green scored a 43 points on 14-for-21 shooting. Forget that he did it all — from attacking the hoop with the aggressiveness the Celtics and their fans have been begging for to dead-eye 3-point shots from the corner — and single-handedly saw the Celtics end the first quarter on a 17-0 run (Green scored 10 during the run) and build what looked to be a healthy lead over the best team in the NBA.
Will Green take any of that into consideration despite the outcome?
“No, we still lost,” he said.
Jeff Green Postgame:
Those numbers meant nothing to Green because they didn’t lead to another tally in the win column. Never mind the performance came in prime time against a heated rival like the Heat, or the first-ever “Jeff Green” MVP-like chants were heard from the Garden crowd — those didn’t matter because the Celtics didn’t come out on top at the end (although Green did say he liked hearing his named chanted).
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For that, Jeff Green is now a Celtic. He’s had plenty of big scoring nights against the likes of Phoenix and Toronto, but he finally showed he can carry the team against the best in the league — the same team that made him look like a deer in headlights during his first run with the Celtics in 2011.
Green is exuding confidence every time he steps on the floor now, and his teammates and the rest of the league are taking notice.
“It’s fun. When you have a guy that has it going like he did today, you wonder what he ate that morning or whatever he did that day,” joked Celtics captain Paul Pierce. “He needs to keep doing it because it worked, obviously. It’s fun to watch, to be a part of that.”
“He’s capable of whatever when he puts his mind to it,” Pierce said of Green. “He’s shown flashes of what he can do throughout the course of a season when he’s focused, when he’s locked in, and that was an example of it today. We wanted him to stay aggressive, he had the matchup most of the night at the four position versus whoever guarded him, and he was aggressive the whole night. That’s what we need from him.”
The Celtics had their chances to beat the Heat on Monday, even without Kevin Garnett — who missed his second straight game due to a groin injury in addition to flu-like symptoms. They enjoyed a 17-point first half lead, and held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
Green filled in nicely for Garnett once again, as he has the other two times KG sat this season for either rest or his recent groin ailment. The Heat couldn’t keep up with Green’s athleticism at the power forward position, and he took advantage of nearly every open lane that was cleared for him.
“I was just in the zone, trying to help my team the best way I can,” he said. “The ball kept going in so my teammates kept getting me the ball.”
“It’s just a mind-set to be aggressive and attack,” Green said. “The lane was open, we got stops for most of them and a lot of them were in transition. That’s the best way to score, because we have a lot of guys that can spread the floor.”
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Believe it or not, it was when Green wasn’t on the floor that the Celtics struggled to close the game out on Monday night. After already logging 36 minutes, Green (who guarded LeBron James for most of the evening) needed a breather with the Celtics up 96-86 with just under eight minutes left. With Green out, the Heat went on their run and were within a possession, 99-96, when Green checked back in with 3:25 remaining. With Miami within two points, a Green layup attempt was blocked by Chris Bosh, and the Heat would out-muscle their way to yet another victory.
It was a coulda, shoulda, woulda game for the Celtics. They could have won, they should have won, and probably would have won with Garnett in the mix. But there aren’t many moral victories for this Celtics team, only an empty feeling and an even bigger hope that they’ll get another crack at the Heat when it matters in May.
“They’re the best team in the league and we took them to the breaking point,” said Green. “When Kevin comes back we have to continue to play the way we did today. With the addition of him I think we’ll be more lethal. As long as we continue to attack and continue to get stops, we’ll be in good shape.”
With Garnett in the mix, and an aggressive and confident Green, the Celtics should be in great shape moving forward — even if/when they meet up with the Heat again.