MILWAUKEE — It seems the Jeff Green expected to lead the Celtics offense and flourish during this transition season has made his long-awaited arrival.
Before Saturday’s game against the Bucks, Green had averaged 20.8 points in his past six games after a puzzling two-game stretch in which he totaled just 6 points. Green scored a season-high 31 points on 9-for-13 shooting in the Celtics’ 103-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night, displaying his vast offensive potential.
“If he was that good every night, then you’d be talking about top-three player in the league,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before the Celtics lost to the Bucks, 92-85, a game in which Green scored 18 points. “Certainly he had it going at a good level but he also had a couple of matchups we could take advantage of. I do think we have to continue to go to him as much as possible. We put in a few more things so he’s got a couple of options on each read.
“We’re trying to do our best to get him as involved as possible because sometimes, because of his personality, he’ll allow the game to play out without taking those options on himself. So I think it’s important that I do a better job in that regard and encourage him to be as aggressive as possible.”
Green, who had converted 9 of 22 3-pointers in the six-game span, said he is feeling more comfortable in his scorer’s role.
“It starts with defense, you look how I got [the touches], transition, free throw line, being aggressive,” he said. “If [we] just continue to get stops on the defensive end, I think it will open it up for everybody, not just myself. I think I’ve come a long way, just being comfortable and knowing my role. I’m just not thinking too much. If I see a three, I am going to take it. I used to hesitate, always think just drive, drive, drive. In this game, you can’t always think drive, drive, drive. You have to be able to knock down shots. I just have to take shots when they’re there.”
The Celtics are dealing with nagging injuries, with rookie center Kelly Olynyk recovering from a sprained ankle and Rajon Rondo perhaps close to practicing after rehabilitating a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. Courtney Lee was fortunate enough not to have extensive issues from his sprained left knee.
Stevens said Lee will be “day to day” and he could play Tuesday night in a rematch against the Bucks. Lee tweaked the knee Wednesday against Memphis and sat out Friday’s victory over the Cavaliers.
With Lee out, Stevens increased the minutes of Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford, and even used Keith Bogans for just the third time this season. With the Celtics traveling for just one night to Milwaukee, Stevens said he decided to leave the injured trio back in Boston.
“Kelly’s got a pretty intense rehab right now,” Stevens said. “It’s multiple times a day that he’s going. Courtney, hopefully he’s going to be day to day starting tomorrow, from what I have been told. So the bottom line is, it’s a good opportunity for him to get fully healthy as well.”
The Bucks had won once — over the Cavaliers Nov. 6 – since beating the Celtics Nov. 1, and had gone 24 days without a victory until Saturday’s night’s victory.
Milwaukee’s 11-game losing streak was the sixth time the franchise has lost 10 or more in a row and the first time since the 1995-96 Bucks lost 15 straight. That streak allowed the Bucks to take Stephon Marbury in the draft and swap him for Ray Allen on draft night.
Bucks coach LarryDrew said it’s difficult dealing with losing, and a plethora of injuries. Milwaukee ranks 29th in the NBA in scoring at 89 points per game.
“It’s a challenge to certainly find an identity, and that our leading scorers are shooting well under 40 percent,” he said. “I’ve seen it before; our identity will not be based off the offensive end. We’ve got to be more of a presence on the defensive end.’’
The Bucks were banged up, with swingman Caron Butler (sore left knee) and power forward Ersan Ilyasova (sore left hamstring) being late scratches. Ekpe Udoh and John Henson were late additions to the starting lineup. Milwaukee is already without defensive ace Larry Sanders (right thumb surgery) and Carlos Delfino (right foot surgery). Drew said Butler will miss a week.