Rivers painting Celtics starting lineup Green

Rivers painting Celtics starting lineup Green
April 4, 2013, 3:45 pm
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Injuries combined with strong play by Paul Pierce and Jeff Green has transformed this duo into a lethal 1-2.

(USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Get used to hearing Jeff Green's name announced by the home team's PA announcer.

Doc Rivers made it official on Thursday: Green is in the starting lineup for good, even when Kevin Garnett returns.

"He's earned that," Rivers said.

It's hard to argue with the numbers, either. As a starter, Green is averaging 22.5 points on 56.3-percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.6 blocks in 11 games. He's turned into a different, more complete player and raised his points and rebounds averages each month since January.

Garnett could return on Sunday against the Wizards, but Rivers will keep Green in there, although his position could fluctuate. After all, the Celtics don't exactly have your standard NBA lineup as it is.

"Yeah, I don't know who is at the 2 (shooting guard), but I'm comfortable with that lineup," Rivers said. "I don't think we have a 2. We're actually playing a 2, two 3's (small forward), two 4's (power forward), if you want to really be honest. But yeah, I'm comfortable with that."

Keeping Green in there next to Pierce whether at the shooting guard or small forward position could create matchups favorable for the Celtics. Both Green and Pierce have the versatility to play multiple spots, and that could benefit either Pierce or Green depending on the opposition.

"You know definitely with [Green's] play, he's earned it," Pierce said of Green in the starting lineup. "It's such a matchup nightmare when you have two guys of our size playing on the perimeter, because you figure one of the smaller guys has to take us. We're both post-up threats, so it causes a matchup problem. And that's what we're looking for night in, night out, is taking advantage of matchups."

"I think it helps one guy a night, at least as far in the post-up game and the physicality," Rivers agreed, "because most guys don't have two big guards like that, so one guy is going to have a matchup advantage. On the other end, the tough part will be the quicker guards, that'll be difficult. Miami, can you do it? Can you put one of those guys on Dwyane Wade? Well, that doesn't make a lot of sense. But maybe we can take advantage. You know, it's a game of chicken."

Speaking of chicken, there were many NBA pundits and fans questioning Green's aggressiveness and get-at-it mentality towards the first half of the season. They may have been on to something, though. Rivers said that Green's emergence, among other things, is due to his confidence level.

Take Wednesday night for example. Green scored 13 points in the 4th quarter, including 11 in a row from 5:40 to 0:45, capped off by a huge three-pointer to give Boston a 96-91 lead they wouldn't relinquish. He became "the guy" for Boston down the stretch, something that usually falls into the hands of Paul Pierce - hot or cold that night.

"I think his confidence is high," Rivers said. "When you have better confidence you think you can do anything. You think you can jump off a building, and I think that and knowledge. I think being around longer in our system has helped him as well."

Rivers also noted that the team could start Courtney Lee at the shooting guard spot some nights, and slide Green over to the power forward spot. This was Rivers' vision before the season, to have Green work with the starters. It was clear early on that Green wasn't ready.

"It was more on the other end on the defense, but even the offensive end at times because they were both running to the post," Rivers said. "It just took time, and it was really Jeff just needed to get more comfortable."

It's hard to believe that in November and December, anybody thought Green would be called the "X-factor" and a player who can "be a threat in those [playoff] situations", as Pierce did on Thursday. But Rivers knew Green had it in him to step up and into the starting role eventually.

"I was hoping, yeah. That was my intentions," Rivers said. "We weren't going to give it to him. He had to be more consistent to do that. Starters have to be consistent. Bench players are the inconsistent guys that go up and down. Jeff has earned that. And I'm really happy, because he makes everyone better."