It just wasn’t Jeff Green’s night — or so he felt.
“Offensively, I played like poop,” he said Friday after the Celtics beat the New York Knicks, 90-86, at TD Garden.
That’s one way of putting it. Green shot 3 of 7 and scored 8 points, though the final 2 came on a crucial layup that helped seal the Celtics’ win.
However, it was Green’s defense, which usually isn’t a talking point, that spoke volumes about his game.
The 6-foot-9-inch forward guarded Knicks star Carmelo Anthony for much of the fourth quarter and hassled him plenty. Anthony shot 1 for 8 in the final quarter, when the Celtics came from 11 down to win.
“I had to find a way to allow Coach to put me on the floor, and, defensively, in the second half, that was the only way I could be on the floor, so I had to step up on the other end,” Green said.
Green’s teammates came away impressed.
“Jeff, defensively, did a great job on Carmelo,” said Jared Sullinger, who scored a team-high 19 for the Celtics. “He did his job. And just because he wasn’t scoring doesn’t mean he wasn’t effective.”
Green came up with the biggest defensive play of the game, blocking Anthony’s shot near the rim with under a minute left and the Celtics leading, 88-84.
“That’s what stars do in this league,” said Courtney Lee, who scored a season-high 18 in 19 minutes off the bench.
“Jeff is an upcoming star. He was struggling all night and he knew that he had to make plays for us to win. He was guarding Carmelo, another All-Star, that he went up against, and he was able to get a stop, a blocked shot.”
“Evenness” is how Brad Stevens describes the Celtics roster, using that term maybe once a week.
It’s the coach’s way of saying nobody on the team is really that much better or that much worse than everyone else.
It can be viewed as a negative, because it’s always nice to have a go-to star that can turn on the scoring faucet whenever he wants. But Friday, “evenness” turned out to be a good thing.
When guard Jordan Crawford, who scored just 2 points after averaging 19.1 in the seven games coming in, just wasn’t feeling it, the Celtics turned to other options, such as Lee.
“Yeah, it really, really can be a positive,” Stevens said. “It’s an interesting dynamic for me because you know when somebody is going really well. But at the same time, you want those guys to know that you believe in them to turn it around. But you don’t want to let it get out of hand.
“It’s an interesting dynamic that you’re kind of toeing all the way through that. But it’s good to have those guys come in off the bench and play well.”
In general, the Celtics’ reserves picked up a lot of the slack, which wasn’t the case in the previous two games, when they combined to score just 16 total points. Against the Knicks, the backups poured in 38.
“We watch film, we know what we got to do,” Lee said. “It’s our role to come in there and pick those guys up. If they are slacking, we have got to bring the energy.”
Sullinger scored just 2 points in the second half after scoring 17 in the first, but the bench picked him up.
“It means everything to us,” he said. “These guys come in, they get their work in, and we play hard. That’s what we do. Honestly, we’re not going to have that go-to guy all the time. It’s different nights. We’re just playing hard and doing the right things.”
Kelly Olynyk rejoins fray
Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk returned after missing 10 games with a sprained right ankle, finishing with 4 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench.
“A little sore, obviously, but I was happy with it,” Olynyk said of his ankle, which he sprained in the Celtics’ Nov. 22 loss to Indiana.
Fellow forward Kris Humphries missed his second straight game with a bruised right knee. Stevens said Humphries had been playing through pain and had to have his knee drained Thursday.
“I thought it was smart for him to talk about it, rather than keep gutting it out because he needed to have something done,” Stevens said. “He’ll be back Monday [against Minnesota].”
Mark Stevens stood behind the Celtics’ bench and tried to find the right words that captured just how proud he is of his son, Brad.
“It’s an unbelievable, almost indescribable feeling,” Mark said. “I’m just so proud.”
Mark, an orthopedic surgeon, was in town for a few days from Arizona, where he lives. And he said he couldn’t be happier with how everything is going for Brad.
“I’m very pleased with the way things are going so far,” Mark said. “They live in a wonderful neighborhood. The kids are happy. His wife is happy. He’s reasonable about the expectations. Everything seems to be on schedule.’’
“I’m just really proud of him,” he added.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.