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.

MORE C'S:

“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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Round 2, here come the Celtics

Round 2, here come the Celtics

INDIANAPOLIS -- As fans made their way into BankersLife Field House, some came wearing summery shirts with flamingos and palm trees.

It would be in many ways a sign of what was to come as the Boston Celtics sent the Pacers vacationing for the summer with a 110-106 win.

The Celtics swept the first-round series against the Pacers, becoming the first team this season to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

And by doing it in just four games, this Celtics team became only the sixth in franchise history to pull off a sweep in a best-of-seven series, and the first under sixth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Boston could not have begun the game any better, scoring the game’s first eight points before Pacers head coach Nate McMillan had seen enough and called a time-out.

During the time-out, the Jumbotron showed Indiana all-star Victor Oladipo who suffered a season-ending injury in January.

The time-out, his presence, it doesn’t matter.

Moments after the Jumbotron sighting, Indiana came out and played better and eventually did enough damage to lead 23-21 after the first quarter.

But the second quarter looked eerily similar to the first as Boston opened with an 8-2 run only for the Pacers to come back and eventually take a slim 49-47 lead into the half.

As the two teams went back and forth, there was an undeniable flatness about the usually-vocal Pacers fans who had the kind of energy you expect in a preseason game and not a playoff one.

The second half saw the Pacers faithful come alive as their team opened the quarter by scoring five of the quarter’s first seven points.

But the Celtics, as we’ve seen time and time again in this series, put together a strong third quarter to go into the fourth ahead 73-72 following a pair of free throws by Marcus Morris.

The fourth quarter saw the Celtics make just enough plays to escape with the win and with it, move on to the next round of the playoffs while the Pacers as well as their flamingo, palm tree-wearing fans are now officially on vacation.

Here are the standouts in Game 4 of the Boston-Indiana first-round series.

MVP

Gordon Hayward: He played with a steady level of aggression that we had not seen at any point in this series. There were drives to the basket, aggressive play defensively and overall, Hayward doing a lot of little things that really stood out. He was Boston’s go-to guy when it mattered most in the fourth quarter as he finished with 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting.

MOST IMPROVED

Terry Rozier: This has been a tough series for Rozier, who came into Game 4 shooting 5-for-18 from the field and 3-for-11 on 3’s. On Sunday, Rozier tallied 11 points while connecting on 4-for-6 shooting from the field.

Al Horford: He had a double-double game for Boston, but they can’t afford to have him struggle like this in the next round when he has so many open to lightly contested shots. Still, Horford made a number of key plays whether it was defense or passing in the second half that would play a role in Boston getting the win, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

SIXTH MEN

Domantas Sabonis: Other than an occasional tug on Marcus Morris’ shorts or a nudging of Terry Rozier into a Pacers shooter to create a foul, Sabonis played a clean, hard-fought, well-played game before finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Marcus Morris: He closed out the series similar to how it began - knocking down big shots. Morris would finish with a near double-double of 18 points and eight rebounds.

MR. NOT-SO-GREAT

Wes Matthews: It’s never good when a guy brought in to help with shooting, goes 1-for-7 in the biggest game of the season. But that was indeed the stat line on Wes Matthews which included him missing four of his five shots from 3-point range.

TURNING POINT

With Indiana ahead 82-81, the Celtics force a turnover as Terry Rozier gets the ball up court and into the hands of Jayson Tatum for a likely dunk. Indiana’s Corey Joseph, trailing on the play, fouls Tatum with the contact that included a blow to the head resulting in a Flagrant-1 penalty. Boston would not trail for the remainder of the game.

UP NEXT: The Celtics move on to face the winner of the Milwaukee-Detroit series which the Bucks lead 3-0.

BLAKELY: NBA Mock Draft 1.0>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Celtics injury report: Marcus Smart, Guerschon Yabusele both out

Celtics injury report: Marcus Smart, Guerschon Yabusele both out

The Boston Celtics' injury report isn't very long, but they are going to be without a couple of players against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

The Celtics are operating without Marcus Smart, who could be out for the first two playoff series after suffering an oblique injury late in the year, but the team also won't have Guerschon Yabusele. Yabusele is dealing with a sore back, so he will be out.

In his place, Jonathan Gibson, who was signed by the C's late in the year, will suit up.

Yabusele's absence won't have much of an impact on the Celtics in this series. He has only played 28 seconds so far through three games in the series, and it's likely that he would stay buried on the bench. He is behind big men like Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis, and probably rookie Robert Williams in the pecking order, but still, losing interior depth is notable.

Gibson played in four games for the Celtics last season and averaged 8.5 points per game in those contests. However, he is likely to be the last man off the bench, so he probably won't play unless the game turns into a blowout.

How to watch Celtics vs. Pacers online>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.