Leading up to Thursday’s tilt between the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was coy about what sort of involvement newly-acquired big man Greg Monroe was going to have in the game, even going as far as indicating he might not even play.
Instead, the veteran logged 19:44 minutes and turned in a gritty performance as the Celtics beat the Wizards 110-104 at Capital One Arena. Monroe scored five points in his first game in green, adding six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Given he was not officially signed until mere hours before the game — meaning he also could not officially practice with the team — it was a respectable performance and a positive sign of things to come.
Though his stat line won’t necessarily turn any heads, he contributed plenty of the proverbial “intangibles.” Thursday’s game was pretty helter-skelter, with turnovers abound and thus plenty of loose balls. The 27-year-old was aggressive to nearly every one when he was on the floor, and helped keep a few possessions alive — or get a transition going — because of his hustle.
That’s not to say it was smooth sailing. It was visible watching him get his legs beneath him, especially early on, but that’s understandable given the Georgetown product hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 29 with his previous squad, the Phoenix Suns. It was clear he was confused on some defensive switches and that he took some time to get acclimated to the offense, but once he got into a rhythm, you could see him getting increasingly comfortable.
With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine Monroe doing anything but thriving in the off-the-bench post scoring and rebounding role he is going to be thrust into as the Celtics aim to make a deep postseason run.
For Stevens, Monroe may arguably be the purest big man he has had while coaching the Celtics, and it was apparent that he loved that. For a coach that often isn’t afraid to throw guards aplenty on the floor in hopes of beating a team with speed and athleticism, Stevens had Monroe playing a good portion of his time with fellow big men Marcus Morris and Daniel Theis.
The Celtics stood pat at the deadline, acquiring Monroe only after he was bought out by the Suns. Although Boston might try and sign another player who gets bought out, this very well could be the roster it rolls with into the playoffs. Sure, the C’s didn’t go out and get a big shooter, but with Monroe, it’s clear they addressed a need, and with time, he has all the makings to be an important contributor.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Wizards:
— With Thursday’s win, the Celtics became the first Eastern Conference team to reach the 40-win mark.
— This is the fourth time since the 1991-92 season the Celtics recorded 40 wins in 56 games or less.
— Kyrie Irving scored 28 points in the win, giving him at least 25 points in six of his last eight games.
— Morris set a career-high with 11 consecutive contests of 10-plus points. He finished Thursday with 15 points.
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