In December of 2011, Celtics forward Jeff Green learned he would need life-threatening open-heart surgery because of an enlarged aortic root valve.
Over a year later, Green is thriving in Boston, stepping up while Kevin Garnett nurses an injury and hitting game-winners.
Green scored 21 points in the Celtics' 93-92 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night and a game-winning layup while the man who operated on his heart, Lars Svensson, watched from the stands. Green also had seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot in the nerve-racking victory, which included a 14-point comeback. The Cavaliers led Boston 86-72 with a few ticks more than eight minutes remaining.
While referees reviewed a replay that determined who had possession of the ball in the final seconds, the Celtics huddled up and figured out their plan of action.
Head coach Doc Rivers said, "Jeff wanted the ball. He asked for it by the way he was looking at me in the huddle. He clearly wanted the basketball. I sensed that and everybody sensed that."
Green talked after the game about how it felt to make such a big play in front of Svensson, saying, "Just a year ago and a couple months, I was under that bright light with him working on me. It's a blessing to be here.
"That was for him," he added, referring to his buzzer-beater.
Brandon Bass led Boston with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Paul Pierce barely missed recording a triple-double. Pierce had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the win.
"It was a huge win," Pierce said. "We didn't play well from the second quarter on, but we found a way. It seemed like we were mentally fatigued and physically fatigued, but we put it all together at the end."
Wayne Ellington scored 16 points and paced the Cavaliers, who played without All-Star Kyrie Irving and rookie guard Dion Waiters. Center Tyler Zeller and forward Alonzo Gee each scored 12 points, and Zeller fell one rebound short of a double-double.