At first glance, what Josh Green was able to contribute to the Dallas Mavericks in the second quarter of Tuesday’s 127-113 victory over the Miami Heat didn’t appear to be anything particularly special.
Green had just two points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals while coming off the bench and playing the entire second quarter. But take a deeper look at the rookie shooting guard’s contributions through the lenses of a coach, and it’s easy to see the phenomenal impact Green had on the Mavs’ 14-point victory.
Miami led the Mavs, 39-30, after the first quarter. Enter Green, who employed his energizer bunny style of play to finish the second quarter with an amazing plus/minus of plus 18.
That was higher than the plus/minus Luka Doncic (plus 16), Dorian Finney-Smith (plus 16), Tim Hardaway Jr. (plus 13) and Dwight Powell (plus 13) produced in the second quarter. And it led coach Rick Carlisle to say:
“As great a night as Tim Hardaway had and as great a night as Luka had offensively, the guy that changed the game was Josh Green with his energy in the first half, particularly in the second quarter.”
The No. 18th overall pick out of Arizona in November’s NBA Draft, Green has made steady improvements to his game during a period when practice time is in short supply due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also has that rare knack for being able to muddy up a game and make it look oh so beautiful — from the Mavs’ standpoint — whenever he checks in.
“He just put in a tremendous amount of work on his individual game,” Carlisle said. “He’s got one thing that you can’t teach, and that is just an unbelievable heart to compete and to give energy and be an energy giver to his teammates.”
With Green on the court Tuesday for the first time to start the second period, the Mavs went from being down by 11 points late in the first quarter to being up, 63-54, at halftime after they outscored Miami 33-15 in the second period. And by the time the final score was in the books, Green finished with four points, four rebounds and career highs of three assists and three steals while providing that critical momentum swing in the second quarter.
“It’s a crucial part of the year, so for me it’s just doing whatever I can do for the team to win,” said Green, who finished Tuesday’s game with a plus/minus of plus 17. “If that means scoring fewer points, but being big defensively, then I’m all for it.”
Green went six games from April 14-24 without playing, but credits playing time in four games before the win over the Heat for boosting his confidence and his spirit.
“It helped a lot,” he said. “I think just getting game reps helps in general. For me, being able to play lately in games, you just feel that much more comfortable on the floor.
“You start to get your rhythm and the rest will take care of itself.”
And when Green got his rhythm going against the Heat, it permeated through the rest of his teammates.
“He’s that energy giver when he’s out there on the floor, and we needed every bit of it,” said Hardaway, who tossed in a franchise-tying 10 shots from 3-point range against Miami. “Just him being able to go out there and dive on the floor and get us extra possessions, drive the basket and make great decisions. . .
“He got me going when he drove and hit me in the corner on a skip pass and I saw one go in. He just does all the little things, and that’s what our team needs. It was great for him to come out here and give us that spark of energy that we needed.”
The Mavs were so thirsty for that second-quarter spark that Green gave that Carlisle did something he rarely does. He started Green and another reserve, Dwight Powell, in the second half against the Heat.
“Look, it’s rare you see a rookie perimeter player come in and score four points and make this kind of impact on a game,” Carlisle said. “But it just goes to show how important hard play is in an NBA season.
“Even when everything is on the line right now, hard play is the biggest thing. Him and Powell and Finney-Smith, those guys are three of our hardest-playing players and they were huge in the plus/minus numbers (Tuesday) in large part because of that.”
Green started the second half in place of Josh Richardson, and Richardson even said: “Josh (Green) was playing hard. That group that finished the first half, they brought a different energy to the game. I’m happy for him.”
The 24 minutes Green played against Miami was his second-highest of the season trumped only by the career-high 32 minutes he played against Chicago on Jan. 17. He’s just hoping for more playing time when the Mavs (37-28) host the Brooklyn Nets (43-23) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center in a game that will be televised nationally on TNT.
“It’s my first year and I’m just out to build relationships with my teammates and it’s been great,” Green said. “I have great veterans and I have a great group of rookies to be by my side.
“So overall, the whole squad is just good to be around, and I’ve enjoyed everything about them.”
And the Mavs have enjoyed everything about Green’s innate ability to come off the bench and give them an instant spark.