BOSTON — Detroit's Josh Smith has been on a scoring tear of late for the Detroit Pistons. So, it only made sense for the Pistons to try and get him going early against the Celtics.
He tried to back Jeff Green down into the post in the game's early moments.
That didn't work.
Smith later tried to knock down a jumper in Green's face.
No luck their, either.
Green's defense was strong in the first quarter, forcing Smith to miss five of his first seven shots.
As the game wore on, Green's defense - much like the Celtics' overall play - steadily declined as the Pistons edged Boston 107-106.
"That's a tough one to swallow," said Brandon Bass of the loss.
Especially for Green, who has been on a nice run of late defensively.
While Green is nowhere close to being a lock-down defender, there's no mistaking his progress defensively has been a key in Boston's improved play overall, Wednesday's loss withstanding.
"When I'm not doing offensively good, I focus on what I can do on the defensive end," Green said.
Despite coming into the NBA from Georgetown where he was named the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year, Green's defense has been an up-and-down affair.
Celtics assistant Ron Adams was an assistant coach in Oklahoma City (2008-2010) when Green played for the Thunder.
"He's better on the ball now," Adams said. "Like some of our younger players, when he has consistency to what he does he's really good. That's what we're trying to build on with our young big guys. His on-the-ball fundamentals have gotten better. His understanding of the game has gotten a lot better."
We have seen him limit the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony.
He has come up with big, help-side defensive plays like swatting a Nikola Pekovic layup attempt in the final seconds of a close Boston victory.
None of that comes as a surprise to Adams.
"Again, to move to that next level that he would like to get to, it takes the consistency of not just every game but more than that every possession. He's getting much better at that."
And while Green has shown a tendency to elevate his play against some of the more marquee players, such as Anthony and Miami's LeBron James, doing it on a game-in, game-out remains the goal.
"He's capable of big plays," Adams said. "Again, the trick is to approach every game like you're playing Carmelo. That's the consistency I'm talking about."