PHOENIX — Call it the “J-Rich” stat: When Gerald Green scores 20 or more points in a game, the Phoenix Suns win.
OK, it’s not as clear-cut as that. But more times than not, how Green goes so go the Suns, too.
His 25-point performance against Golden State on Saturday marked the 13th game this season in which he has scored at least 20 points. The Suns are 10-3 in those games.
“I don’t know what to say, man,” he said after practice Sunday. “I’m just trying to just do anything I can to help my team win. I’m not going out there trying to score 20 points. I’m just going out there trying to be aggressive, just trying to let the game come to me; not trying to force anything. When you got guys like Goran Dragic, who’s drawing double teams, triple teams almost, it just makes it a lot easier for other players to be successful.”
The connection between Green’s play and the team’s success is very similar to that of Jason Richardson, another veteran shooting guard who spent time with the Suns.
During the 2009-10 season, the Suns went 26-4 when Richardson scored 20 or more points. They finished 54-28 and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
This year’s Suns team has won 10 straight when Green hits the 20-point mark.
“We don’t want to harp on that, but obviously, when he shoots the ball well it’s a big addition for us,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Recently, more and more of Green’s offense is of the midrange variety. Sure, he’s still bringing fans to their feet with high-flying dunks and quick-trigger 3s, but Green has gained greater confidence spotting up from 12-15 feet out.
“Well, we’ll take dunks and 3s, but we feel comfortable again with him posting up a guy who is littler because he can jump over the top of guys,” Hornacek said. “Not many guys can get a good looking shot off any time they want. He’s one of those guys through his athletic ability can. I think he’s made much better decisions of when to shoot, when not to shoot lately and consequently I think he’s playing better.”
Green may be shooting fewer 3s, but he’s connecting at a high percentage (16-of-32 in his past seven games) and increasing his trips to foul line, where he shoots 83.3 percent, tops among Phoenix rotation players.
“Every day you’re not going to hit six 3s a game,” he said. “I just got to just try to be more efficient…try to get a lot of easy buckets to get my confidence going and obviously easy buckets to get the team going.”
Green, averaging a career-high 13.9 points, puts pressure on himself to be that spark for the Suns. And when he’s not, like at New York (2-of-16) and last week against Chicago (2-of-13), Green will often place the blame for the team’s lackluster performance squarely on his own shoulders.
“Right now I’m the starting two guard on this team, so I have to do more,” he said. “I feel like if I have off games and we lose, I feel like, damn—I take initiative to myself like I feel like we lost because of me because I wasn’t more productive.”
Bounced from reserve to starter a handful of times due to player injuries at the start of the season, Green has now settled into a recurring role with the first unit. He’s made 20 straight starts—all since Eric Bledsoe has been sidelined by a knee injury—averaging 15.1 points, including six of his 13 20-point efforts.
“The guys have done a great job of finding me and helping me be successful, setting screens for me, looking for me in transition; just finding me in places where my sweet spot is at,” Green said.