Celtics

Monroe, Larkin are thrust into big spots with Celtics

Monroe, Larkin are thrust into big spots with Celtics

BOSTON – When the Celtics signed Greg Monroe, they were adding a guy who was joining his third team...this season!

And in the offseason, they added Shane Larkin to a roster that already had four guards (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier) ahead of him.

And yet as the Celtics’ postseason journey begins Sunday against Milwaukee, Monroe and Larkin will play prominent roles in Boston’s quest to advance past seventh-seed Milwaukee.

Monroe and Larkin arriving in Boston under less-than-ideal circumstances only to thrive once in town is not unusual since Brad Stevens took over as Celtics coach in 2013.

Evan Turner parlayed a strong two-year run in Boston into a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Kris Humphries, a throw-in to the Celtics blockbuster trade with Brooklyn in 2013, would wind up with the Washington Wizards on a three-year, $13.32 million deal.

And more recently, Gerald Green waited for his chance to be a significant contributor last season in his second stint with Boston and made the most of it in the playoffs as an unexpected starter. His play helped lift Boston to a 4-2 first-round series win over Chicago after falling into a 0-2 series hole. He parlayed that into a deal with the Houston Rockets this season. 

Monroe's role has increased significantly since Daniel Theis’ season-ending torn meniscus injury to his left knee.

With Theis in the lineup, Monroe appeared in 11 games while averaging 7.8 points and five rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game.

In the 15 games since Theis’ season-ending injury, Monroe has increased his scoring average to 11.9 points per game to go with 7.3 rebounds while playing 21.9 minutes per game.

And Monroe’s usage rate has also increased from 21.5 prior to Theis’ injury, to 25.9.

While increased opportunity has certainly weighed into Monroe’s improved productivity.

But he acknowledges that the culture that exists here in Boston has also helped foster an environment that he says has made for a very comfortable situation now that he’s acclimated to the franchise and his teammates.

“The thing that’s most important here that people learn, are habits,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “They’ve done everything they could to help put me in the best position possible. I totally understand why guys come here. You learn better habits.”

Larkin echoed similar thoughts on his time in Boston, which came as a surprise to many considering the former first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 2013 left millions on the table by not re-signing with a team overseas.

“I believe in myself. I always believed in myself,” Larkin said. “I knew that if I was given an opportunity whether it was 10 games, 15 games, I would be able to show that I can help a winning situation. I always believed I could be a great player in this league. And it’s been a rocky road. Injuries, broken ankles, just a bunch of ankles, knee problems...It’s been a lot of stuff. I’m going to continue to work, continue to try and get better every single game, every day of practice so when my opportunities do come, I’m going to try and make the best of it. I feel I’ve done a lot of that this season. Hopefully, I can continue to grow and continue to grow and be that player I want to be.”

Larkin credits Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, and the scouting staff for recognizing the importance of finding the best players who are more than just talented but also an ideal fit.

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“He [Ainge] sees maybe what other people don’t see,” Larkin said. “He sees where guys can come in and help the roster. Coming into the season, I remember the first conversation I had with him, he was like, ‘I don’t know what your role will be this season. I don’t know if you’re gonna play 15 minutes, 20 minutes, five minutes, two minutes, I don’t know. But I do know you fit on our roster. You fit in with what we do here, off the court, on the court. I think you can help us.’ So when you hear that from such a great player and great general manager, you have to take that risk and take that opportunity to come here. And once you get here, Coach Stevens is so great at putting you in position to be successful. He sees what your strengths are, your weaknesses are, he makes everybody play well. That’s a testament to him. They work together and find the right guys that fit the system. That’s why every single year it’s kind of gone in the right direction. Brad’s first year they won 20-something games and every year since they’ve taken a step up.”

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Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

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File photo

Bucks vs. Celtics: It's all come down to 'who wants it the most'

MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton knows what’s at stake so there’s no need to sugarcoat or downplay the significance of tonight’s Game 6 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“Just win or go home,” Middleton said. “You can’t leave nothing on the line.”

Boston will come into tonight’s game with a similar approach, aware that regardless of what happens in Game 6, they will live to see another game at the TD Garden on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST. They could play Game 7 against Milwaukee or Game 1 of the second round against Philadelphia.

But the Celtics will tell you the sooner they can put away this Bucks team, the better off they’ll be. 

At this point in the series, there are no true surprises for either team.

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“Fifth time playing each other, you’re gonna know each other’s game pretty well by now,” said Milwaukee guard Matthew Dellavedova. “So it’s definitely some things we can do better, and we’ll execute better in game six.”

Like most playoff series, adjustments have a way of often being the difference between winning and losing. 

Milwaukee struck first by inserting Malcolm Brogdan into the starting lineup from Game 3 on, to replace Tony Snell who has struggled shooting the ball (29.4 percent) most of this series. And a back injury to John Henson afforded more playing time to ex-Celtic Tyler Zeller and Thon Maker, with the latter having dominant performances in Games 3 and 4, but being a non-factor in Boston’s Game 5 win which gave the Celtics a 3-2 series lead.

Boston has since countered with Marcus Smart making his playoff debut this season in Game 5 after being out six weeks with a right thumb injury, while Semi Ojeleye got his first NBA start in Boston’s Game 5 win as well. 

“It made it a little bit easier for us (defensively),” said Jaylen Brown, referring to Ojeleye’s first NBA start. “Because we can switch . . . we’re all the same. That made it a lot easier for us.”

"It’s gonna come down to who owns their space, who wants it the most and who’s gonna fight for it,” Brown said. “All that X’s and O’s and stuff  . . . it’s gonna come down to that (who wants it, fights for it more) at the end of the day.”

Terry Rozier added, “It’s gonna be a dog fight but we look to come out on top.”

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Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

Another late error by refs: Celts should have been called for shot-clock violation

MILWAUKEE -- The NBA’s two-minute report from Boston’s 92-87 Game 5 win on Tuesday confirmed what many thought at the time: A 3-point heave by Al Horford with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Celtics leading 84-79 was not released prior to the 24-second shot clock expiring, and the Bucks should have been awarded the ball.
 
Following the game, Milwaukee interim head coach Joe Prunty was vocal in his belief that the officials made a mistake in not calling a 24-second violation. The lead official, Ken Mauer, told a pool reporter that the play was not reviewable because Horford missed the shot. Had he made it, the referees could have reviewed it.
 
“The rule states that under two minutes we are not allowed to review a potential 24-second violation unless the ball goes into the basket,” Mauer said.
 
Prunty understood the reason for the refusal to review the play, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. 
 
The Bucks were focused on getting the ball back and, trailing 84-79, would have had a chance to make it a one-possession game with about a minute to play. The call didn't cost Milwaukee any points, even though the Celtics successfully rebounded Horford's miss and retained possession; Marcus Morris subsequently missed a shot. Still, Boston was able to take about 20 seconds off the clock.

“That was a huge stop to get in Game 5 of a playoff series where both teams are putting everything on the line,” Prunty said after practice on Wednesday. “That’s a tough time to have a missed call. I know for me, I had a great view of it. So what I thought was a shot-clock violation was not called.”

In Sunday's Game 4, the NBA said Milwaukee's Khris Middleton should have been called for fouling Jaylen Brown with less than a minute to play as Brown drove to the basket attempting to extend Boston's 100-99 lead. Instead Brown lost the ball and the Bucks eventuallly pulled out a 104-102 victory.
 
That specific call was one of 15 made by the officials in the final two minutes of play. Of the calls made, the other 14 were correct calls or correct non-calls upon review.