Jeff Green didn’t offer any grand explanation as to his season-high 31-point performance Friday.
The Celtics forward said he simply got to the free throw line, and doing so jump-started his overall game in the Celtics’ 103-86 blowout win over Cleveland at TD Garden.
“Yeah, that’s my game, going inside-out,” he said. “Trying to get to the free throw line, get a rhythm. Get easy buckets first.”
Green’s effort and aggressiveness are present some nights and absent others, making it hard to tell which Jeff Green will show up.
“Every game he comes out aggressive from the jump, I think he has a great game,” said Jordan Crawford. “We stay in his ear about staying aggressive, attacking. It’s good for us.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the Cavaliers played small, which gave the 6-foot-9-inch Green an opportunity to post-up on the inside.
But, overall, Green’s aggression was the difference, and it has been better lately, with Green averaging 21.2 points in the Celtics’ last five games, three of which have been wins.
“Jeff’s way he has about him right now is really good in the past couple of weeks,” Stevens said. “You can tell he is really locked in, really focused and really doing a good job.
“His work in practice has been really good, you can tell it’s kind of . . . sometimes the regular season takes place and some guys might get tired, some guys might get more entrenched in it — he looks like he gets more entrenched in it.”
Yet with Green being inconsistent, performances like the one he offered Friday have been little more than tantalizing glimpses when he makes everything look so effortless.
“I think the real point of it is that it was very effortful,” Stevens said. “It may look effortless, but he is getting the position. He is all over the right spots. He is playing very aggressive, very assertive on the blocks.
“The great ones out there can sometimes look like they’re not . . . especially the great athletes . . . can look like they’re not playing quite as hard because they glide a little bit. He certainly is a great athlete, but I thought his performance tonight was very full of focus and effort.”
Stevens is known as a “numbers guy” who can recall most statistics off the top of his head.
But he was quite playful with the media when asked about Crawford’s triple-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.
“He had a triple-double? Crawford did? Holy smokes!” Stevens said with wide eyes as he picked up the box score.
“I had no idea. I know he kicked the ball, but I didn’t know he had a triple-double.”
Stevens’s performance was rather believable, so one reporter asked if he was acting.
“I had no idea,” Stevens said, shrugging with a straight face.
He then checked the box score again.
“He had 11 rebounds? Jordan Crawford had 11 rebounds?”
One might have thought Stevens was surprised that Crawford had a triple-double.
“Shocked,” Stevens said.
And how effective was Crawford?
“Shockingly effective,” Stevens said, smiling. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Stevens then dropped the act for a moment.
“He was good, he was solid,” Stevens said. “He didn’t shoot it great, obviously, but everything else he did pretty well.”
If anything, it might have been an insight into how Stevens values team basketball over individual performances.
But, make no mistake, Stevens knew what Crawford had achieved, if only because Crawford asked Stevens to stay in the game late when he needed a couple baskets to seal the triple-double.
“I kind of asked him a little bit,” Crawford said, smiling. “I whispered in his ear a little bit.”
Crawford said his teammates were telling him how close he was late in the game, which is why he started firing up shots.
He sank two free throws with 94 seconds left to seal his third career triple-double.
“I figured the game was kind of in hand,” said Crawford, who shot 4 of 14. “They don’t come around too much.”
The crowd was also into it, cheering for him to shoot.
“Yeah, when I missed a shot, I kind of heard the air come out of the crowd,” Crawford said. “That was cool.”
New deep threat
Jared Sullinger was again impressive from 3-point range, making 4 of 5. Sullinger has made 6 of 8 from 3-point range in the last two games, a surprising feat considering the bulky 6-foot-8-inch forward isn’t known for his range. “Brad says that I don’t take enough of them,” Sullinger said after scoring 12 points. But Sullinger also said former Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave him leeway to shoot the 3-pointer last season before Sullinger had season-ending back surgery. “I got hurt, so y’all really couldn’t see it,” Sullinger said. People are seeing it now. “He’s been doing it since the start of training camp,” Crawford said. “I think he’s starting to get more confident as he shoots more. And it’s working out good for us.” . . . Courtney Lee (sore left knee) and Kelly Olynyk (sprained right ankle) both missed the game.