CAMDEN, N.J — Coming into the Sixers’ second-round series against the Raptors, the thought was that Toronto’s depth was part of their advantage.
Two games in and the Sixers’ reserves may have already flipped that script — and without their sixth man even being out there.
James Ennis has turned in two strong performances. He’s made a ton of winning plays and has the look of someone who’s been here before. He’s been the best bench player on either team.
In Game 2, Greg Monroe had that same look as he took over the team’s backup center minutes. Monroe did the usual things he’s done in his career, hitting the glass and being an effective screener and roller. The surprise was how effective he was on the defensive end, altering shots at the rim.
The big man spent 38 games with Toronto earlier this season before being traded to Brooklyn, waived by the Nets, signed to a 10-day contract by Boston and eventually finding his way to the Sixers on April 4.
“Obviously [this season has] been a lot different,” Monroe said at the team’s practice facility Wednesday. “I’ve never been home in the middle of the season. Other than that, it’s been about the same. I was up [in Toronto], doing what I can to help the team and now I’m here, trying to do the same thing. What I do, how I approach things will never change. It’s all about winning. It’s all about doing whatever I can while I’m on the court to help the team. “
Monroe went from looking like he’d spend the postseason at home to being picked up off the street by the Sixers and giving them meaningful minutes in the playoffs.
Did it ever hit him that he might not get this opportunity?
“Yeah, you think about it, but that never stopped my work,” Monroe said. “I still woke up every day and got my normal workout routine on the court with my trainer at home. Of course that thought does creep into your mind.”
Monroe left Monday night’s win with a sprained ankle and didn’t return. He practiced today and said he’s feeling better. He wasn’t sure about his availability for Game 3 Thursday, but said that he feels better and he’s “expecting to” play. He's officially listed as probable.
Another welcomed sight on the practice court was Mike Scott. The veteran forward has become the team’s sixth man, but missed the first two games of the series while dealing with plantar fasciitis and a heel contusion in his right foot.
He’s also unsure of his status for Thursday, but said that he’s no longer in a walking boot and has also returned the scooter that he was using to help rest his foot. He is questionable for Game 3.
When he does return, he plans on bringing the same things he has all season. That should serve the Sixers well as they go up against a tough and physical Raptors team.
He’ll also be ready if a Jared Dudley-like figure arises for Toronto.
“Being physical, competing, bringing toughness, spacing the floor. Same s--- I’ve been doing all year,” Scott said. “Playing hard, backing up my teammates … just in case.”
It’s that kind of mentality that has caused Sixers fans to fawn over Scott. He plays the game the right way and speaks honestly at every turn.
The love has gotten to a point where a Sixers fan even got a Scott-inspired tattoo.
Scott feels the love and is enjoying every second of it.
Aw, that s--- was dope,” Scott said of the tattoo. “That’s crazy. That was dope. Shoutout to him. I got him tickets for Sunday. Crazy fans. I haven’t had fans like this since probably [the University of Virginia], but as far as being in the league – no disrespect to Atlanta, Clippers and D.C., but I’ve never had fans like this. I love it. They embrace me, I embrace them. I feel like I’m one of them.
With some players, that may just be looked at as pandering, but not with Scott. He’s as genuine as they come.
“Man, that s--- better be crazy,” Scott said of the atmosphere for Game 3. “I know it’s going to be crazy. I know it’s going to be loud. I’m just trying to amp them up, use some reverse psychology, but I already know it’s going to be crazy. The fans are going to be wild, going nuts and talking their s---, cheering and hopefully booing the hell out of the other team, holding us down like they always do.”
If Scott is available and the bench keeps producing the way it has, there should be plenty to cheer about.
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