With nagging injuries to guard Courtney Lee and All-Star forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green has been forced to play just about every position for the Boston Celtics over the past month. Green, who missed the entire 2011-12 season after being diagnosed with a heart complication, signed ta lucrative 4-year, $36 million contract in the offseason. The Celtics hoped he would help spearhead the bench with former sixth man of the year Jason Terry.
But with the injury bug hitting the Celtics hard this year, Green has had to step up his play from a top tier bench player to a bonafide scorer in the starting lineup. Green was a dominant presence for the Celtics in the month of March as he averaged 17.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.2 blocks over 33.8 minutes. With these remarkable numbers, Green cemented his status as a starter for the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett returned to the floor on Sunday night in the win over the Washington Wizards after missing the last eight games due to left ankle inflammation. This allowed head coach Doc Rivers to implement his new starting lineup that featured Garnett, Avery Bradley and forwards Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. Entering Sunday’s contest, these five players spent a mere 13 minutes on the floor together all season. That is a ridiculously low number of minutes for a group that Rivers announced would likely be his starting lineup when the NBA playoffs starts in two weeks.
While the lineup of Bradley-Green-Pierce-Bass-Garnett may be unconventional, it does make sense why Rivers would opt to start these five players. With Pierce and Green both starting, the Celtics have two electric scorers that can take over the game at any time. Plus, the opponent’s shooting guard would have a tough time guarding Green or Pierce because of the size advantage that each forward will have on offense. As long as Green has the defensive prowess to stay with the swift shooting guards on defense, this lineup has the potential to be extremely effective, especially with the defensive expertise of Bradley and Garnett manning the defense.
The new-look starting lineup did not disappoint on Sunday night. Bass had a particularly strong evening, scoring a game-high 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Garnett, meanwhile, returned to action and posted 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and corralled six rebounds in just 24 minutes of action. Bradley had a strong defensive game and also added 10 points in 30 minutes. Fouls limited Green to just eight points in 27 points. Paul Pierce scored 15 points and had a game best +15 in point differential.
The Celtics win may not look that impressive against a Wizards team that sits 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. But the Wizards have played inspired ball for the past couple of months, made evident by their 18-13 record since Feb. 3, the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference in that time span. The Wizards beat the playoff-bound Indiana Pacers last night and therefore are clearly not a team that has rolled over despite their disappointing record. Thus, the Celtics should be commended for their effort at the TD Garden which featured a balanced scoring attack from their starting unit and their reserves.