It happened with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 112-97 Philadelphia win over Toronto: Danny Green dunked the basketball.
Big Ol' Danny Green dunk and everyone is fired up pic.twitter.com/dKSAy4O1z6— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) April 19, 2022
On the surface, the two points weren’t that big a deal. The contest was winding down, and the play extended the Sixers’ lead from 17 to 19. But Danny Green does not dunk very often — only 71 times total (regular season and playoffs) across his 13-year NBA career — so his willingness to do so was a meaningful indicator for the Sixers in one important way: the three-time NBA champion is healthy. As Doc Rivers said after the game:
“Well, if Danny dunks he’s 100 percent. I mean, that’s equivalent to me dunking right now. So that was great. We laugh because he’ll dunk in a practice every once in awhile and the whole team now yells ‘Game shots!’ like ‘Nope, that’s not a game shot.’ Now he can get us back. He’s shooting the ball well, he’s playing well, his defense is back, and we need it.”
Health had been an issue for Green this season, dealing with hamstring and hip injuries, a COVID-19 health and safety protocols stint, and the reality of now being 34 years old in a profession where your window usually begins to close rapidly at such an age. He was sent to the bench for a large chunk of the season to try and reduce wear and tear on his body, and averaged just 21.8 minutes per game, his lowest mark since his second season in the league when he was still a late second-round pick trying to catch on and only appeared in eight games for San Antonio.
However, even towards the end of the regular season, Green appeared to have a new spring in his step. He averaged 23.3 minutes per game across six April regular-season contests, his highest mark for a month since December, and shot 51.9 percent from three. Monday’s performance was vintage Green: a trio of triples, a steal, two blocks, and a drawn charge against OG Anunoby. Perhaps most importantly, he logged 38 minutes. But you can forgive his Sixers teammates if all they wanted to talk about was the dunk and to get off some jokes at the veteran’s expense.
Embiid on Green’s dunk: “We were all joking in the locker room he better get ready for that drug test tomorrow”— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) April 19, 2022
As for Green himself, he kept it cool, and actually revealed the analytical thinking that played into his decision to rise up for the slam:
“I know that the last time I tried to hit a breakaway layup against them, it was denied easily. They have a lot of length. They can block a lot of shots. So, when you go to the rim against them, you’ve got to make sure you get to the rim. I had that in my mind. Tyrese [Maxey] actually threw me the ball last time too, so I had to make him look good this time. Last time he was little upset I messed up his assist. But I just made sure I got to the rim. They were making a run. We were just trying to slow down their run. Stop the bleeding. And make sure we kept scoring. So, I had to make sure I got an easy two.”
A healthy Danny Green is a valuable Danny Green. He has been a contributing member of title winners with three different organizations. In Monday’s game, Green passed Derek Fisher for 11th all-time in NBA playoff history for made three-pointers. He made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team back in 2017. With the Sixers not exactly stacked on the wings or with two-way contributors across the roster, and with Matisse Thybulle ineligible to play in road games this series, the Danny Green revival has come at the perfect time. The Sixers and their supporters are hoping the wily veteran has enough left in those legs for a long playoff run, even if he only breaks out a dunk every once in a while.