One of the few bright spots for the Celtics in their tied series with the Bucks has been (despite a greatly thinned roster) the Celtics starters have largely won their head to head matchups with the Bucks starters. Bucks starters Tyler Zeller, Malcolm Brogdon, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (!!!) have the worst +/- over the course of the series for the Bucks, and Celtics starters Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Al Horford are the team’s only players currently in the positive. Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s bench has run rampant during 2nd quarters and Bucks bench players like Jabari Parker and Thon Maker have put their stamp on the series. If the Celtics want hold the fort until their starters return to the game, they’ll need steadier play from their bench and I’ll be looking to Marcus Morris and Greg Monroe.
It’s been a strange series for Morris, who loomed large for the Celtics to close the season and provided a needed offensive punch down the stretch and even during the early stages of the series. Particularly since Irving went down and the Celtics began this “Butch and Sundance” run, Morris has has donned the emotional leader role typically filled by Marcus Smart, injecting both energy and ruckus. However, the crackling emotional energy seems to have gotten away from Morris in Milwaukee and his play has become more wild in the glacial Midwest.
Monroe, when he has gotten run, has been brought rebounding energy and seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder. He has played with a ferocity in the series that indicates that his Suns banishment has not been forgotten. Similarly to Morris, however, Greg’s imposing play did not translate on the road and both players had nightmare minutes in Wisconsin.
Morris and Greg Monroe lead the Celtics in USG%, a stat used to calculate how often someone contributes to ending an offensive possession. USG% is used to give an idea of many possessions a player is using while on the court. The apex example of a high-usage player is someone like Russell Westbrook, and I like using that example because he’s the fable for how high usage can cut both ways. If the player is good, it can elevate his team to another level by imposing himself into the game. If the player is bad… well, it doesn’t go so great.
USG% is calculated with totals like assists, turnovers, and how often a player shoots.If you’re high usage players are being efficient with their shooting and dropping a lot of dimes, your team has a good shot of coming out on top. By contrast, if your highest usage players are dominating the ball to serve up bricks and lob turnovers, it’s going to be hard to net wins. I’ll leave it to the readers to infer which of these camps Morris and Monroe belong to, as both have a TS% under 50% (48.4% and 49%, respectively)and have combined for six assists and sixteen (!!!) turnovers.
The turnovers in particular are the brutal aspect, as the Bucks were one of the most lethal transition attacks in the NBA during the regular season and reignited that when the series was in Milwaukee. Some turnovers will loom larger than others should the Celtics lose this series, particularly this Matthew Dellavedova basket that ended the quarter and proved to be the difference in the game.
However, there are also a large number of turnovers on Morris’s resume thus far in the series that seem to be the by-product of an excited guy who wants to run through Khris Middleton as badly as he wants to make the next play. For, example, look at what happens in this clip and try to remember that Marcus Morris is typically a good passer by NBA standards.
Woof, that was less Marcus Morris and more JaMarcus Russell. The good news is that Morris is a typically good passer who trailed only Rozier in team turnover ratio during the regular season. The bad news is that it hasn’t been there thus far in the Bucks series, with Morris only managing two assists over the first two games.
Similarly, Monroe has had difficulty with the nifty interior and outlet passing that he built much of his NBA career on. For a guy like Moose, this should be an easy weakside swing to Baynes. However, as Ron Howard might say, it wasn’t.
One of Monroe’s strengths is his ability to command the attention of extra help defenders and find guys once he’s sucked in an extra man. As I alluded to above, the Bucks seem only too happy to give their ex-teammate the extra attention, and they seems to know the ways to fluster the big man. This pocket pass that he attempts to sneak to Guerschon Yabusele is a routine play for Greg, but instead the Bear ends up dancing along the line to save the wild pass.
Monroe and Morris are always going to be high usage players. It’s how they’ve been for their entire NBA careers and I think for them to be effective (particularly on this team) the high usage needs to continue. However, what separates good and bad high usage players is efficiency and not making mistakes. Both are clearly energized and engaged for this series, but are haunted by uncharacteristically sloppy play.
Luckily, the Celtics are back home in Boston tonight, and if there’s one thing the Garden is known for, it’s its calming effect on players. (touches ear) I’m getting word that actually the exact opposite is true. Regardless, I hope to see both return to form in Boston.