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The Read & React: Smart PnR’s and Morris coming up in the clutch

Over the last few weeks, the Marcuses have really found their roles with the bench and fit in seamlessly with the starters.

Phoenix Suns v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Keith Smith: Another close win where the Celtics had to gut it out late and make plays to come away with the victory. While we'd love to see them engineer a few blowouts, winning all these close games should bode well long term.

When the playoffs get here, the Celtics won't be blowing teams out. They'll be in close games, hopefully multiple close games, which would mean a long playoff run. Getting this type of experience now should pay off later.

Phoenix Suns v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Sure, Kyrie Irving has been there on the biggest stage possible, but this is his team now. He's not the second banana anymore. Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier all made it to the conference finals last year. But that team relied on the simple strategy of "Get it to IT and get out of his way" to close games.

Irving is largely the Celtics closer, but the guy taking the shots late is usually the guy with the best shot. Today, Jayson Tatum, as he has almost all year, made some plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor. Horford chipped in and of course Smart was in the middle of things. Learning to win close games now is good prep for the future, even if we'd enjoy a 20 plus point blowout here and there.

Phoenix Suns v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Andrew Doxy: The Marcus Smart-anyone alley-pop connection is fascinating to watch. He knows exactly where to place the ball to lead to an easy finish, and it’s often Al Horford who benefits. Smart accomplishes this well in the pick-and-roll because when he comes off the pick, instead of aggressively attacking the basket, he patiently dribbles, putting his defender on his hip/back. From there, it’s basically one-on-one with the pick defender, and this usually frees up the roll man for the easy lob opportunity. Smart’s progress in this area has been tremendous this season, and the next step in his evolution should be switching speeds out of the pick-and-roll.

Bill Sy: Over the last two games, Aron Baynes has started over Marcus Morris, once in a game that Joel Embiid didn’t play in and yesterday’s matinee vs. Phoenix who don’t have a feature big. In two close games, Morris has played 55 minutes to Baynes’ 32, proving that old adage that it doesn’t matter who starts, but who finishes (and plays in crunch time).

Phoenix Suns v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

But here’s your definitive stat for the “Marcus Morris is better off the bench” argument: in both games vs. the Suns and the Sixers, the outcome was in the balance midway through the third quarter. Against Philly, Boston used a 22-11 run between the 3rd and 4th quarters to build a double-digit lead; Morris scored 14 of those points. Yesterday against Phoenix, the Celtics used a 28-12 onslaught to eclipse the Suns; MM contributed ten against his former team.

Maybe Morris isn’t “better” off the bench, but Boston needs him on that second unit. I mentioned it in Friday’s R&R, but it bears repeating. Because of the variety of ways that Morris can score—stretching the floor from behind the arc, running ISO’s at the elbow, driving off of close outs—he’s a perfect fit as the go to scorer next to Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.

Morris’ shot chart looks the buck shot of a shotgun. Nearly 70% of Morris’ buckets are assisted, but he’s still proving to be a very good scorer in isolation. Per Synergy, he’s scoring 1.13 points per possession. That puts him in the 79.7th percentile. That’s better than Kyrie Irving (0.95 ppp, 59.5th percentile) and in the same conversation as LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and Kevin Durant.

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