TORONTO — Brett Brown’s Game 2 adjustments were not limited to the starting unit’s defensive assignments. The 76ers rotation was cut down to seven players, with Greg Monroe and James Ennis as the bench options.
“We made multiple adjustments on matchups, one. We hit some different things with Kawhi [Leonard], two. And we shortened our rotation, by design, on purpose,” Brown said after the game.
It’s doubtful that anyone would have been able to predict that the difference maker in a Sixers game would have been the performances of Monroe and Ennis, but the two made a case for themselves as the possible X-factors in this best-of-seven series.
On Monday night at Scotiabank Arena, where Monroe played for the Raptors earlier this season, the eight-year veteran was a key piece in the Sixers’ getting a win and tying the series, 1-1, before heading back to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.
In his 12 minutes off the bench, Monroe tallied 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, and blocked one shot.
Ennis, whose role was made exponentially more important with the recent injury to Mike Scott, finished with 13 rebounds, six rebounds, and a block.
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Although Monroe and Ennis’ combined 23 points were huge contributions for the Sixers, their defense was what was much needed and what stood out the most when they were on the floor.
It can’t be easy for a low-minute player to be tasked with guarding Kawhi Leonard when Ben Simmons isn’t on the court, but Ennis answered the call on Monday, holding his own against the Raptors centerpiece.
“I love defense,” Ennis said. “I like to take challenges like that.”
Similarly, as Joel Embiid was given the assignment of guarding Pascal Siakam, Monroe had to come in and take over the work that a smaller, quicker, forward-type player requires on the defensive end.
“They came in and made shots, but more than anything they were guarding,” Jimmy Butler said after the game. “Their IQ showed.”
Even with as little playing time as Monroe has had and the short time that he has been with the Sixers, he held his own. Through the first half the Sixers held the Raptors to just 38 points and 32.6 percent shooting from the floor.
“It’s a big game for us and I’m definitely happy that he trusts me,” Monroe said of Brown. “It doesn’t get any bigger than that, on the road, Game 2, being down 1-0. I was ready and I felt comfortable with everything he was asking me to do.”
In the third quarter, things got a little bit dicey when Monroe went out with a sprained left ankle, forcing Boban Marjanovic and Jonah Bolden to come in for some crucial minutes while the starters got a few minutes of rest.
“Our bench with James Ennis and Greg was great,” Brown said. “It’s a tale of a team win. It really was a contribution from a bunch of different people. I thought Greg was outstanding.”
Monroe said that his sprain should not keep him from playing in Game 3 or 4 and that he’ll be ready to go, as he was on Monday, when his number is called.