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Green’s energy lights way

His shot was off, but he still contributes

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By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / April 6, 2011

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Last night’s was the type of game the Celtics have been waiting for from Jeff Green. Actually, they do not want Green to miss every 3-pointer he attempts and go 3 for 9 from the field. But Green showed he has plenty of ways to make up for inaccurate shooting during a 99-82 win over Philadelphia at the Garden.

“We got on him a little bit the last couple days about defense and rebounding,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “And I thought he answered [last night]. And for him, it has to be a repetitive act now. He has to do it next game and the game after that. It has to become a habit.’’

Actually, Green said, Rivers has been exhorting him since Feb. 24, when he joined the Celtics.

“He’s always on me,’’ Green said. “I learned that the first day I got here, first practice — he’s on me. He tells me he sees a bright future and he’s going to push me to be the best player I can be.

“And I know what he expects. I know I’ve got to play hard, I’ve got to do certain things, but he wants me to be aggressive on both ends of the floor. Defensively, rebounding, guarding my guy. Offensively, sometimes I have an advantage as far as my speed, my quickness, and as far as my power, being able to post guys up. He just wants me to go out there and play my game.’’

Consistency is the goal, according to Green.

“If my shot’s not falling, do other things to keep my rhythm up, rebounding, making hustle plays,’’ he said. “I’ve got to continue to get better, doing little things which lead to me getting my shot going, getting things in transition, easy layups.’’

Green was shooting 51.4 percent from the field before last night. But, though his shots were going astray, Green led the Celtics in blocked shots (3) and equaled Paul Pierce for the rebound lead with seven. Then, there was his defense.

The Celtics’ second unit had a 10-point lead to protect going into the final quarter. After Thaddeus Young cut the Philadelphia deficit to 75-67, the Celtics went on a 12-5 run over a 5:39 span, Green scoring half their points. He dunked off a lob from Glen Davis, converted a one-hander in the lane, then hit two foul shots to conclude the spurt.

“It was good, great, to finally get in a good rhythm for us,’’ Green said. “For the future, to get a good game under our belts, especially with the playoffs approaching. It felt good for us to go out there and finally get some time to play.

“I think we communicated very well [on defense], our rotation . . . I think we helped each other out, gained that trust in each other on the defensive end, which led to great offensive possessions.

“I knew it was going to take time for us to grasp what Doc really wanted. But I think now we’re starting to click and get what we need out of the second unit, as far as our defense. Just communication, being on the same page.’’

The dynamic of the reserves has changed as Green is joined by Nenad Krstic and Delonte West. The Celtics are basically in a race to optimize the contributions of the second unit before the playoffs start. And this game was among the few to provide evidence that can be accomplished.

“It’s great having another ‘big’ to spread the floor,’’ Green said of Krstic, a former teammate with the Thunder who missed the previous two games with a bruised knee. “I’ve been with Nenad a couple years now, and I know what he can do, so it’s a lot easier for myself. It’s good for us to have him back, healthy, and playing the way he plays, to give [Garnett] and JO [Jermaine O’Neal] some time off.’’

As for the alley-oop play, Green said, “I know Baby, he can pass the ball. We’re just clicking together, getting a rhythm with each other. We’re starting to learn what each other can do on the floor.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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