Marcus Morris gave the Boston Celtics exactly what they needed when they need it most
Coming into the playoffs, Marcus Morris was separating himself as a primary scorer because of all the injuries for the Boston Celtics. He was taking on much of the additional responsibility, and it felt like the Celtics would need that in the playoffs.
For the first two rounds, he might have been the most disappointing player on the team. He was inconsistent, and could not bring the scoring boost they needed. Fortunately, enough players stepped up for for them to get the scoring they needed.
Before the Cleveland Cavaliers started, Morris put a massive target on his back, despite his poor performance. Morris put himself in the same breath as Kawhi Leonard when it comes to slowing down James, and he got the opportunity to prove it.
The Celtics threw multiple looks at him, but Morris spent the majority of the time on him. Defense is always a collective effort for the Celtics, but Morris outscored and out rebounded James as his primary defender, and that might be the most impressive performance of these playoffs.
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Morris backed up every every bit of talk from before the game, and now it is James that has to figure out how to get around this defense.
Do not expect this to be the regular for Morris. James will have a response and will figure out a way to exploit him. The Celtics need to anticipate James will be back to the best player on the court, but if Morris can be as serviceable as he was in this one, the Celtics will be in a good position.
The Celtics may not ever limit his scoring this much, while forcing seven turnovers. That being said, Morris clearly has an ability to provide some resistance on defense, while having an impact on offense, and there is no doubt the Celtics need every bit of that in this series. Even if it is just for brief stretches, the Celtics know how they need to disrupt James to take control of the game.
The Celtics do not need Morris to be better than James, because that will never happen. What they need to avoid is him being abused and exploited regularly by James. If Morris is making things difficult, and James just gets through it anyways, you have to accept that.
The Celtics will also need his scoring to keep up. He was disappointing in the earlier rounds because they lost his offense, but the Celtics cannot be sacrificing that while trying to account for James. They need all their top scorers to be producing, to keep as much pressure on James to do more than is physically possible.
Morris is celarly going to be a vital player on both ends in this series, and he could not have done a better job in game one. He got the start and you have to expect it to stay that way, because that defense did something hat very few thought would be possible.
The Celtics really could have used this version of Morris throughout the playoffs, but they dealt with it earlier. There is no margin of error from here on out, and the Celtics cannot afford to have Morris dissappear. Right now, having hi perform well on defense is also much more of a prority than offense.
In game one, it looked like he saved the very best of this season for this series, and if he can keep this up it will be the kind of unexpected edge that could be a determining factor in this series, and at least make sure the Celtics push it as far as possible.