Jeff Green vs. LeBron James Round 2
Tonight, Jeff Green will get another crack at guarding the best player of his generation.
The last time Boston played Miami, a double overtime thriller in January, Green was given the unenviable task of guarding LeBron James and he actually did well at it. Sure, James had 34 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, but as ESPN's Chris Forsberg points out:
The main face of Boston's defensive effort against James in that game was Jeff Green, who embraced the challenge of checking arguably the NBA's best player and did a commendable job of forcing James into jump shots and denying him clear paths to the basket. Of the 31 shots James took in that game, 19 came outside of the lane, and he took just five free throws.
If Kevin Garnett doesn't play because of a strained left adductor, Green should start and immediately take on the challenge that is James. That would help take the stress off of Paul Pierce to have to guard "The King," but not having defensive leader Garnett on the floor will make everyone else have to work harder. As well as Green did in corralling James last time, he still is one of the greats and will get his. More from Forsberg's piece:
I can't do it alone," Green said. "He's going to get past me sometimes, but that's why you count on your teammates to be there."
Added Shavlik Randolph, who saw an increase in minutes in Friday's win over the Bobcats with Garnett out, "I
think with (James), it's just getting back on defense. Don't let him get a head of steam. Load up on the ball, just make sure he sees bodies and doesn't see a clear path to the rim."
It's kind of hard to take advice from a guy like Randolph who hasn't played any meaningful minutes against James, but the theory seems sound. Green's starting to round into the player Danny Ainge had banked on when he traded for him, but if he is truly going to be the small forward of the future in Boston and an acceptable replacement to Pierce, he needs to show in big games he can take on the greats and not shrink. Tonight will be a good measuring stick to see how close Green is to being a major piece on a winning team.