Greg Monroe

No extra motivation for Celtics' Monroe in beating his old team

No extra motivation for Celtics' Monroe in beating his old team

MILWAUKEE – Unlike previous stops in his NBA career, Greg Monroe is no longer saddled with the burden of being the face of the franchise or expected to be a central part of the team’s core.

Drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the seventh overall pick in 2010, Monroe has been a solid but far from spectacular pro with career averages of 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 51.5 percent from the field.

Now, with the Celtics, that’s no longer an issue.

With Boston, the 6-foot-11 center is part of the puzzle rather than a cornerstone which works for all involved and has been one of the many factors weighing in Boston’s favor as the Celtics hit the road with a 2-0 lead against Monroe’s old team, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the best-of-seven series.

One of the big knocks on Monroe was how most of the teams he played on failed to get to the playoffs.

An eight-year veteran, this is only the second time Monroe has been to the playoffs.

The first time?

That was last year, with the Bucks, who were bounced in the first round by Toronto.

The irony of Monroe potentially getting to the second round of the playoffs at the expense of the Bucks is not lost on the veteran big man.

Still, he insists there’s no added motivation or incentive for him in this series against his former team.

“Like I said before, that part of my career is over,” Monroe said. “I’m focused on right now and right now we have to win this series.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines leading into tonight’s pivotal Game 3 in Milwaukee:

MIDDLETON AND FOULS


Khris Middleton will be the first to tell you that he’s not the quickest defender on the floor. And the numbers will back him up on that assertion, especially when it comes to committing fouls. The 6-foot-8 Middleton leads all players in the postseason with a 5.0-fouls-committed-per-game average. While it is higher than his regular-season average, even then he ranked among the most foul-prone players in the NBA. Among those who appeared in at least 60 games last season, Middleton’s 3.3 fouls committed per game was the fourth-highest average.

BENCH PLAY


The Celtics' second unit has been among the NBA’s most productive since the All-Star break and that trend has continued into the playoffs. Boston’s bench has absolutely dominated this series, outscoring the Bucks’ backups, 68-48. Leading Boston’s backup attack has been Marcus Morris, who by himself has scored 39 points in the first two games – just nine less than the entire Milwaukee bench.

BOXING OUT


This series thus far has been more about Boston doing the little things, a lot better than the Bucks. Among the areas Boston has been better at, is boxing out which has been key to Boston’s success on both the offensive and defensive boards. In the first two games, nba.com/stats has the Celtics for 66 box-outs compared to 62 for the Bucks. It may not seem like a lot, but a couple more box-outs on Milwaukee’s part may have been enough for them to be coming into tonight’s game in a 1-1 series tie versus this being a must-win game for them now that they’re trailing, 2-0.

TATUM MORE THAN A SCORER


After having one of the greatest playoff debuts ever by a Celtics rookie, Jayson Tatum’s scoring wasn’t quite up to par with what we’ve seen from him this season or in Game 1 (19 points, 10 rebounds). He had just four points on 2-for-9 shooting in Game 2. Still, he actually did a lot of really good things for Boston to take control of Game 2 and never let it be in question. Tatum grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists while tallying a game-high four steals and blocking one shot. His ability to impact games in ways beyond scoring, speaks to his growth as a player and understanding of his role within the framework of this roster.

JABARI PARKER


There’s a different gear the best players have to shift into when the playoffs begin. And Jabari Parker simply hasn’t made that change. Not even close. A 12.6 points per game scorer in the regular season, Parker has scored just two points in the two games in this series. He has to be better tonight if the Bucks are to have any shot at getting back in this series.

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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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Despite injuries, the Celtics' talent cupboard isn't bare

Despite injuries, the Celtics' talent cupboard isn't bare

BOSTON -- Between now and the playoffs, we’re going to hear a lot about what the Boston Celtics are lacking.

And while they are certainly not as deep a team courtesy of injuries, it’s not like the roster has now become this barren wasteland of woeful talent

In fact, Boston’s revamped core group, one without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis who all suffered season-ending injuries, and Marcus Smart whose right thumb injury will keep him out for most of the first-round series, is full of players who came into the league with high expectations due to their lofty draft status.

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Boston’s current starting five consists of three players taken with the No. 3 pick in their respective draft class -- Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

And point guard Terry Rozier was selected with the 16th overall pick, with regulars Marcus Morris and Shane Larkin also being taken in the first round of their respective draft classes.

That’s in part why tonight’s game against Washington is actually an important one for both teams, well aware that there’s a chance they can see each other in the first round of the playoffs, which for the Celtics will begin at the TD Garden next weekend.

“We’re pretty confident,” Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. That’s why these last games are so important. With us being number one in the league in defense, we can get as far as we want to go. We have to tighten up a couple things on offense and stay together. We already hit adversity at its highest level. We already seen so many things. We’re prepared.”

And to know that the bandwagon is getting lighter as they near the playoffs, it only serves as additional motivation.

“No doubt about it,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “I feel like with this group . . . we’re already fueled, but that gets us going even more.”

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But as you look at Boston’s roster, it’s pretty clear that there’s some decent talent.

"Obviously, we have a lot of star power that’s missing just because of the unfortunate circumstances of injuries,” Larkin told NBC Sports Boston. “But we got a lot of guys who can play here. We have a lot of high draft picks, a lot of first round picks. Danny [Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations] did a great job of putting together a roster for situations like this. You never want to have situations happen with the injuries, but we have a lot of guys in here who can step up and play. That’s what we’ve had to do all season, and we’re going to keep doing it until the wheels fall off.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE