C's Encouraged by Monroe's Low-Post Dominance vs. Houston
HOUSTON - After spending the past month diligently learning the Boston Celtics' system, Greg Monroe's hard work is finally starting to pay off. The newly-added veteran big man had his second consecutive solid outing for the Celtics Saturday night, as he played his heart out during a hard-fought, 123-120 loss to the Houston Rockets.
While the Celtics were barely edged by the league's best team, they completely blew Houston out of the water when Monroe was on the court. He tallied 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, corralled a team-high-tying six rebounds, and had a game-best plus/minus rating of plus-23 during just 19 minutes of play.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," said Monroe, who also shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. "I found my spots, got a lot of easy buckets from my teammates. That was really it. When I feel like I have opportunities to be aggressive, I try to do that."
Monroe was particularly aggressive in the low post. All six of his buckets came inside the paint, with four of them coming from within the restricted area. Houston's constantly active defense had no answer for his post-up moves, so he kept attacking whenever he received the ball in close proximity to the basket.
"He was just being himself, punishing their switches," observed Kyrie Irving, who logged 18 points and six assists. "Houston, they play a unique style of basketball, just switching 1 through 5 on everything no matter what actions you're going through. We just wanted to feed Greg. He has the ability to play with his back to the basket, so we kept throwing it down to him."
Coach Brad Stevens emphasized the importance of establishing an inside presence against the Rockets, so that's why he relied on so much on Monroe's offensive ability.
"I just think you have to be able to score in the paint against these guys," said Stevens "Otherwise, you get into trouble with how much switching they do. So, I thought he did a good job on both ends and it was good to see him play like that. He's going to have games where he gets great opportunities, and we need him to do just what he did tonight."
It was the second straight game in which Stevens leaned heavily on Monroe off the bench. The 6-foot-11 center played 21 minutes Wednesday night against Charlotte, scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while logging a plus-13 rating during the 134-106 win.
Monroe says his comfort level with his new team has been steadily rising of late, and the recent numbers speak for themselves. During his first six games with the C's, he scored a total of 34 points on 12-of-29 shooting, while producing a cumulative minus-24 rating. Over the last two games, he has amassed 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting, while achieving a plus-36 rating.
"I feel like I'm getting better every game, every practice," said Monroe, who helped lead Boston's bench to a season-high 67 points against the Rockets. "I'm getting more comfortable, not just learning the system, but playing with the guys and just getting into a rhythm with them. I'm just focusing on getting better every day and just trying to continue to help the team any way I can."