Not all superheroes wear capes. Or, in the case of Javonte Green, wield gaudy stat lines. Aside from his team-high nine rebounds, the counting stats next to his name in the box score for the Bulls’ 114-108 victory over the Nuggets Friday concealed his impact.
His fingerprints, though, were impossible to hide. Especially in the fourth quarter, where he zipped around the court like a kid who caught wind of where his parents put the cookie jar and had just finished going to town. In one sequence, he snuck between Aaron Gordon and Monté Morris to slap a loose ball to Alex Caruso, then he beat Morris to a long rebound and stole yet another possession. And just like it did at the end of the third quarter…
Green’s multiple efforts paved the way for three points. This one from Zach LaVine’s 33-footer gave the Bulls a 97-90 lead with 4:51 to play.
Less than a minute later, Green poked a pass away from Gordon and into the hands of LaVine. Zach took it the other way for a whirling dervish bank shot to give the Bulls an eight-point advantage.
Making an Impact Outside the Box Score
With the Nuggets shooting 55% from the field and 41.7% from behind the arc in the final 12 minutes (compared to 33.3% and 25%, respectively, for the Bulls), the extra bites at the apple that Green’s steal and four offensive rebounds provided felt lifesaving.
As did his versatility to defend everyone from Morris to Jeff Green to the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Gordon, who scored a season-high 28 points in a manner that almost made you forget Nikola Jokić wasn’t on the floor. Yet, despite being three inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than his main defensive assignment, Green surrendered just four of those points.
And the bucket Gordon scored over Green to trim the deficit to 101-97 was an eight-foot driving, floating bank shot. Or, in other words, tougher than him trying to win a slam dunk contest against LaVine or Derrick Jones Jr.
DeMar DeRozan and LaVine combined for 20 of the team’s 26 fourth-quarter points to pull the Bulls through the last leg of their West Coast road trip. With Green joining them, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso in the closing lineup, they also had a special kind of battery in their back.
“I thought I had a ball of energy in me,” Jones Jr. told reporters after the game. “But he’s different.”
The best superheroes usually are.