BOSTON — Jeff Green will always be part of Boston Celtics lore, and Sunday night, he helped send his former team home for the summer with a huge performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Green started for Kevin Love (concussion) and scored 19 points, the second-most on the Cavs behind LeBron James’ 35.
Green’s scoring was a huge reason why Cleveland booked a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with an 87-79 win at TD Garden. His 3-point shot with 5:44 left in the fourth quarter gave Cleveland a 74-72 lead, one they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
The usually quiet Green typically lets his play do the talking, but he also made his voice heard on the court and in the huddle during Game 7.
“To have the opportunity, playing a Game 7, go to the Finals in the Garden. I spent four years here, and the opportunity was right there, and I wanted it bad,” Green said. “You know, I mean, I talk, but (Sunday night) was just one of those days where my voice needed to be heard. When I talk, it’s meaningful. It’s useful. I don’t just talk to talk.”
Green’s path to the NBA Finals was a long and difficult one.
He was drafted fifth overall by the Celtics in 2007 but was soon traded to the Seattle SuperSonics in the deal that brought Ray Allen to Boston and helped the C’s win a title. Green would play for five more teams, including the Celtics from 2011 until the trade deadline in 2015, and landed with the Cavs on a one-year deal last summer.
In the middle of all that was open heart surgery in 2012, and the possibility of never playing again. Green persevered through all of it and now is going to play on basketball’s biggest stage.
“His number was called, and he just answered the call. It’s amazing,” James said. “Listen, at the end of the day, what he does on the basketball floor is extra credit. This guy had open-heart surgery a few years ago. The game was basically taken away from him, and they said it’s possible you’ll never play the game of basketball again.
“The fact that he can put on a uniform every day and do the things that he does out on the floor — I don’t care if he makes a shot. To make big plays like he made (Sunday night) — for him personally, it’s the cherry on top because the game was taken away from him. So for him to be able to do what he did last game after Kev’s injury and then obviously start (Sunday night), it’s big time.”
Even if Love returns for Game 1 of the Finals, Green still should play a key role for the Cavs. Cleveland will need his defensive versatility, length and 3-point shooting, especially if the Golden State Warriors are the Cavs’ opponent.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports
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