Gerald Green and Isaiah Thomas had a vision heading into the 2016-17 season – a vision that they would rekindle their offensive chemistry from their days together on the Phoenix Suns and become a dynamic scoring tandem for the Boston Celtics.
That dream didn’t transpire during the regular season, as Green was, for the most part, limited to a minor role on the court.
In the Playoffs, however, their fantasy has suddenly become reality.
Green, who hadn’t started a game for Boston in more than 10 years, was inserted into the starting rotation Friday night to give the Celtics an offensive spark and help them get out of a 2-0 hole in their first-round series against the Chicago Bulls.
The veteran wing did his job, scoring five early points during the first quarter, while helping the C’s get off to a fast start en route to a 104-87 Game 3 victory.
Stevens liked what he saw out of Green that night, so he started him again Sunday night. This time, Green erupted for a postseason career-high 18 points – 16 of which were tallied before halftime.
Thomas, meanwhile, logged 33 points of his own, as the Celtics fought off the Bulls, 104-95 at United Center, and tied the series up at two wins apiece.
The two were unstoppable out of the gate. They combined to score as many first-quarter points (18) as Chicago had as a team during the opening frame, leading the Celtics out to an early, 33-18 start.
Green recorded eight points during each of the first two quarters and had canned four 3-pointers by the half.
“Everybody in the league knows that he can go on these runs,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said of Green after the game. “He’s a guy you have to look out for. He just opens up space for other people, and if he’s going to get open looks, you feel really good about him knocking them down. He has obviously provided some shooting, but also he’s gotten a couple drives to the basket at key times when things weren’t going our way.”
Another thing that Green provides when he is on the floor is relief for Thomas. Green’s ability to space the floor alleviates some of the pressure off of Boston’s leading scorer because defenders have to account for Green’s range.
“Even if he’s not making shots, you gotta respect his jump shot because he’s a hell of a shooter,” said Thomas. “I love when he’s out there because he gives me space to go to work, and (he’s) also another outlet when I’m in trouble because I know he can knock down those shots.”
In other words, their bond is mutually beneficial. Because teams are so focused on stopping Thomas on the offensive end, others, like Green, are sometimes left wide open.
“The way IT is able to get in the paint, it’s just really easy to go out there and spot up and knock shots down,” Green confirmed.
It took a full season, but the vision that Green and Thomas laid out back in September is finally coming to fruition – even if they started to have doubts.
“Coach called my number at a time when I didn’t even think he would call my number,” admitted Green. “But I had to be ready, and I’m just glad I’m able to do everything I can to help this team get over the hump.”
Green’s aid during the postseason is also allowing Thomas to carry out another prediction he made before the regular season began.
“For Gerald, I’ve said it all along: He’s going to win us a playoff game,” said Thomas. “I really believed that.”
Make that two playoff wins now, thanks to the presence of Green. And with the way he and Thomas are flourishing together, there could be many more to come.