Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Green applies defensive pressure on LeBron James during Sunday's win at TD Garden.Much of the positives from Boston's double-overtime triumph over rival Miami on Sunday was masked by the news of Rajon Rondo's season-ending ACL tear. But one player that deserves a belated spotlight is Jeff Green for his defensive efforts in limiting LeBron James.
Green wasn't perfect, but he played gritty defense on James and limited his scoring output. James scored 34 points on 14-of-31 shooting over 52 minutes, but much of his damage was done when someone other than Green was defending.
According to Synergy Sports individual defensive data, Green allowed a mere 0.75 points per play overall on Sunday as opponents were 5-of-17 shooting (29.4 percent) against him. Here's a closer look at plays that James finished with Green defending:
The final tally for Green defending James: 3-for-11 shooting (27.3 percent) with one foul and a total of nine points allowed. Given that James averages around a point per possession this season, limiting him to nine points on 12 possessions is a stellar afternoon for Green. But maybe we shouldn't be surprised.
Green has quietly been a solid individual defender (we previously documented that HERE). Through 44 games, he's allowing a mere 0.757 points per play, which ranks him in the 87th percentile among all NBA players. Narrow the list to all players with at least 250 possessions defended and Green is 16th overall in the NBA (second only to Jared Sullinger on the Celtics for best individual numbers, among those that qualify).
Green explained his defensive philosophy after Sunday's win.
"I just tried to stay in front of [James]," he said. "He's one of the best players in this league. I mean, I can't tell you I did this to stop him or did this. I just tried to stay in front of him, contest every shot. He's a tough opponent to go against.
"You've just got to make him work. I mean, he's going to make shots, he's going to get dunks, he's going to do his thing. But you can't allow that to get you down, you can't allow that to [make you] back up off of him, because he's a rhythm player. He's going to get a good rhythm and he can torch you, so you've just got to continue to stay with it, continue to move on if he makes a tough shot and play the next series and play him hard."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers added high praise for Green's effort.
"He was great. I mean, when you think about it, when we lost the other game against New York, I thought Jeff did all he could do against Carmelo [Anthony] as well. His length -- Jeff made one mistake where we got up one, he allowed LeBron [James] to catch him with [seven] seconds on the clock. And that was the only real mistake he made that I can remember. Other than that, he just used his length, his strength -- LeBron’s a bull, he’s tough.”