When the Bucks signed Greg Monroe to a three-year deal over the offseason, there were many experts and fans of the game that thought they would take a big, big leap this season.
That hasn’t happened.
Going into Tuesday’s game against the Celtics, the Bucks were 10 games under .500 at 21-31 and in 13th place in the East.
And in the last couple of weeks, rumors of Bucks players - Monroe included - possibly being on the trade block began to pop up.
Monroe has been solid in Milwaukee, but he hasn’t been a difference-maker, as evidenced by their record. He came into the game averaging 16.5 points and 9.6 rebounds, though he’s not much of a defensive force.
But Tuesday night, Monroe actually came off the bench for the Bucks . . and he was a difference-maker. He was the difference-maker.
He scored 23 of his season-high 29 points in the second and third quarters, a span that saw the Bucks turn a four-point deficit into a 19-point lead.
And just for kicks, it was Monroe’s turnaround hook shot with one second remaining in the game that put the Bucks up two points.
The Celtics had no answer for Monroe all night, and they admitted it after the game.
“I thought in the first half it wasn’t quite as obvious,” Brad Stevens told reporters. “In the second half it became a real problem. We tried to trap from the baseline, we tried to trap form the middle. Middle worked until they made a good adjustment and put [Khris] Middleton in the opposite corner. Then we went with Amir [Johnson] on him and I thought Amir did a great job trying to guard him. He had a good game, played a great game. Monroe was the difference in the game.”
Johnson picked up three fouls in the first quarter, and once taken out of the game, Monroe did some serious damage. Kelly Olynyk had a hard time containing him, too. That momentum carried over in a third quarter that saw the Bucks shoot 75-percent (15-for-20) from the field behind Monroe’s 5-for-6 performance, a stretch of play that had Avery Bradley calling him “unstoppable.”
“The hardest part about tonight was just the fact that everybody was struggling to guard Monroe.” Stevens said. “On the other end it was just a matter of if we didn’t find anybody that could guard him could you try to play against his strengths on the other end. It was hard to do . . . He killed us last year, too. He’s a tough guy to guard on the block. He’s a good post player. There’s not a lot of post guys left, but he’s a good one.”
Monroe has scored at least 20 points in seven of his last nine games. This was just the second one that resulted in a win, but perhaps the way in which he played and refused to let his team blow a 19-point fourth-quarter lead and lose is something he and the team can build on going forward.