HOUSTON – Shortly after arriving in Houston, a bunch of Boston Celtics players made their way over to the Toyota Center to get some shots up.
This happens all the time with young players.
But among the Celtics’ youthful contingent was 27-year-old Greg Monroe.
While he may have more experience than many of his teammates, like them he is also trying to find his niche with this team.
Well an opportunity to do so came Monroe’s way on Saturday night against Houston.
And while Boston lost 123-120 to the Rockets, the play of Monroe was certainly one of the more positive aspects of the game for the Celtics.
Monroe came off the Celtics bench to score 18 points, the most he has tallied since becoming a member of the team.
And the decision to play Monroe major minutes came at the expense of Daniel Theis who was cleared to play after missing one game with a sore right hamstring. It was only the second game this season Theis did not play (coaches decision).
“I just think you have to be able to score in the paint against these guys, otherwise you’re in trouble with all the switching they do,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “So, I thought he did a good job at both ends. It was good to see him play like that. Like we’ve said before, he’s going to have games where he gets an opportunity and we’ll need him to do so just what he did (Saturday night).”
Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 123-120 loss to the Houston Rockets.
BENCH GETTING STRONGER
You certainly like the job that Greg Monroe did off the Celtics bench, but he was by no means a one-man, second-unit show. As good as Monroe was, he wasn’t the top player off Boston’s bench. He may not have even been the second-best player. Marcus Morris, looking more and more like an impactful two-way talent, led all Celtics with 21 points. And it was another strong game for Terry Rozier who had 17 points which included a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range. For the game, Boston’s bench scored a season-high 67 points and are among the top-3 scoring bench units in the NBA since returning from the All-Star break.
Al Horford is a prideful man, one who holds himself accountable for his play, good or bad. Saturday was a bad night for Horford who had a horrible sequence in which he missed a critical, wide open 5-footer near the rim and later turned the ball over. Following the loss, Horford didn’t mince his words in accepting his role in the game’s outcome. “This was a tough one for me personally. I felt like I could have … if I would have knocked one of those shots down it would have been different,” said Horford who had 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting. “I’m going to look at this one and learn and be better.”’
We have witnessed to continued growth of Jaylen Brown as a two-way player who has made no secret about striving towards becoming one of the game’s best along those lines. Saturday’s loss is another chapter in his learning process. James Harden is one of the most difficult players in the NBA to defend, and Brown saw this first-hand on Saturday. Harden was able to get Brown into foul trouble early, which led to head coach Brad Stevens having to sit Brown for longer stretches than either would have liked. And with so many calls going against him and the Celtics, Brown became irritated and frustrated which led to a technical foul being called on him.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
It really does appear that Boston’s handling of the center position will be done by committee. Aron Baynes is firmly entrenched as the starter, with Al Horford possibly sliding over when Brad Stevens puts Marcus Morris with the first group instead of Baynes. Things will be interesting when it comes to who comes off the bench. Daniel Theis has been the team’s first big off the bench most nights, but Greg Monroe has more size, strength and experience. So could we be seeing him gradually get the minutes that for most of this season went to Theis? It will become a bigger issue as we get closer to the playoffs, for sure.
GOOD TRY, GOOD EFFORT
The Celtics were disappointed they didn’t beat Houston, but far from devastated. Boston shot 48.4 percent against a solid Houston defense that’s improving. They made more than 50 percent of their 3-pointers (13-for-24), shot better than 90 percent (19-for-21) from the free throw line and turned the ball over 12 times. It was the kind of performance that would have been good enough to beat most teams. It served as a reminder of the importance of maximizing the mundane. It was little things, like a loose ball here or a block out there, that ultimately cost the Celtics the game. “I just thought they maximized more possessions than we did,” Stevens said. “Those were two good teams playing and both teams deserve a lot of credit for how they played.”