The Jeff Green the Cavaliers heard Sunday night was not the one they thought they knew.

During timeouts, especially when the Cavs weren’t clicking in the first half, the 31-year-old forward was discussing strategy, urging his teammates on, more vocal than he had ever been.

“I’ve never seen him so fired up in huddles,” Kyle Korver said. “Jeff’s usually a pretty quiet guy, kind of likes being more laid-back. He was all in today. He was trying to encourage everyone, keeping everybody going and we needed that tonight.”

The Cavs were without five-time All-Star Kevin Love, out with a concussion for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Green made just his second start of the 2018 playoffs as the Cavs tried to reach their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, LeBron James his eighth in a row.

Green had played 10 seasons and never gotten past the conference finals. He missed all of 2011-12 after undergoing open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. He understood that being back on the court is a gift, and he was one victory from his first Finals.

The usually quiet Green said he was ready at shootaround. But no one realized hours before that Green was ready to inspire, to embolden, to lead.

“I’m in the moment. This is the moment,” Green said. “I give everything to this game. To have the opportunity to the Finals, in the Garden. I spent four years here, and the opportunity was right there, and I wanted it bad. You know, I mean, I talk, but today was just one of those days where my voice needed to be heard. When I talk, it’s meaningful. It’s useful.

“I just voiced my opinion in certain timeouts and got back on the floor and had fun and had joy with the game.”

The Cavs defeated the Celtics 87-79 because James played all 48 minutes and poured in 35 points, just missing a triple-double with 15 rebounds and nine assists.

But Green was his dependable wingman, scoring 19 points with eight rebounds in 42 minutes. Even though he shot only 2-of-9 beyond the arc, one came during a 9-0 run in the third quarter, the other from the corner off a Korver assist with 5:44 remaining.

“Jeff Green was huge the last few games. Just played tremendous. Those 3s were huge. His transition baskets were big. I thought with [Kevin] Love out, they had a lot of switchable parts out there,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

“Man, Jeff, he’s just an ultimate pro,” Korver said. “He works every day. He’s such an incredible talent — he can do everything out there, his length, his versatility. I think his shooting has gotten a lot better this year. To step up in this moment, Kevin goes down, to get put in the starting lineup and not just put up numbers, but play how he played and play with that aggression. …”

Korver knows his shooters. Green’s field goal percentage of .477 in the regular season was the highest of his career. In 18 games in the playoffs, he’s made .439, and that includes going 0-for-7 in his only other start in Game 1 of the first round against the Pacers.

Green was the fifth overall pick by the Celtics in 2007 out of Georgetown. There he became close with Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, an assistant under coach Doc Rivers.

When Green signed a one-year, $2.3 million free agent contract in July, Lue told reporters at the summer league in Las Vegas that Green could do more than he had his past two years with the Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic. Green has also played for the Seattle Sonics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.

“Very talented player. Very versatile,” Lue said of Green Sunday. “Not really getting a great opportunity in all the places he’s been. ... Just an all-around great guy, and I’m just happy for him and happy for the performance he had tonight.”

Green discussed the obligation he feels to James as he plays and trains alongside him daily. But when James considered what Green did in Game 7 to help get the Cavs to the Finals, basketball wasn’t at the forefront.

“His number was called, and he just answered the call. It’s amazing,” James said. “Listen, at the end of the day, what he does on the basketball floor is extra credit. This guy had open-heart surgery a few years ago. The game was basically taken away from him, and they said it’s possible you’ll never play the game of basketball again.

“The fact that he can put on a uniform every day and do the things that he does out on the floor — I don’t care if he makes a shot. To make big plays like he made tonight — for him personally, it’s the cherry on top.”

Green said he didn’t think about getting to the Finals when he was hospitalized after heart surgery, his diagnosis following a routine physical by the Celtics. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic made a nine-inch incision in Green’s chest, pried open his rib cage with 16 rods and repaired the aortic aneurysm that could have ended Green’s life when he was 25.

It wasn’t until he returned to the court that an NBA title became his main goal again.

“I’m here, and I’ve battled. I’ve worked my [butt] off each day since January 9, 2012, to get back on this court and now compete for a championship. I mean, I almost lost it all, and now to sit here in front of you guys, to talk about the NBA Finals and playing in it. I mean, I’ve been truly blessed to be able to step foot on this court, to play this game,” Green said.

“Each day I give it my all. Whether good or bad, I live with the results. But I am enjoying it, every single moment of this. I mean, I don’t take nothing for granted. Nothing.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.