WALTHAM — For the foreseeable future the Celtics will have a starting five that includes both Paul Pierce and Jeff Green, who have each played well when paired with each other this season.
The two have spent more time on the court of late, a marriage that was more out of necessity than anything else. Kevin Garnett's left foot injury gave Doc Rivers little choice but to insert Green in the starting lineup, a place Rivers intends to keep him now that Garnett is back. While Green's offense has certainly provided a boost to the Celtics, Rivers feels more at ease with the decision because of the way Green has been able to defend.
An athletic 6-foot-9 wing player, Green has shown the ability to hold his own defensively at multiple positions with the kind of consistency that Rivers expects. And that has provided Rivers with the confidence to put Green on the floor to start games regardless of who the opponent may be.
During Garnett's eight-game absence (March 23-April 5) because of inflammation in his left foot, both Pierce and Green became consistent 20-point scorers.
In those eight games, Green averaged 21.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 54 percent from the field and 52 percent on threes.
Pierce missed two games (one for the birth of his son, and another because of an ankle injury) during that span, but still averaged 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
"It causes a dilemma for other teams," Pierce said of being on the floor with Green. "It's definitely an advantage."
The pick-your-poison dynamic that opponents have to deal with now that both are starters, comes as no surprise to Green.
"It'll definitely create mismatches when you got Paul and myself who can both play on the perimeter," Green said.
How good have they been?
Of all the two-man combinations on the C's roster, the team has a plus/minus of plus-113 for the season when Pierce and Green are on the floor at the same time, which is tops among all two-man tandems for the Celtics.
And with Pierce and Green being 6-7 and 6-9, respectively, they each have either a size or speed edge over most defenders.
Most of the Celtics' opponents have rolled the dice and put the smaller defender on Pierce, which Rivers admits has been somewhat surprising.
"But that won't last," Rivers said. "Teams will go back and forth on it. Teams are just trying to figure which way to guard them."
Rivers said he has spoken with a few head coaches of non-playoff teams about how they decided to defend Pierce and Green.
"It's been interesting the comments I've gotten back," said Rivers who would not elaborate on what he has been told other than to classify it as "good information."