Last weekend, Brad Stevens drew up an out-of-bounds masterpiece that would have sealed a win in Indianapolis, but Kyrie Irving missed a layup and the Celtics eventually lost on a Victor Oladipo 3. Last night in Phoenix, Stevens went back to the drawing whiteboard and engineered another classic to give Marcus Morris a chance to beat his former team.
With every Stevens’ play, you never know what action to pay attention to. The play starts out with Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown running hard into the restricted area at Marcus Morris with Kyrie Irving set up on the other side of the floor. What the Celtics are trying to do here is force a switch with Morris’ defender covering a guard. The 6’6 Devin Booker stays at the top of the circle to check 6’9 Morris after Jayson Tatum inbounds the ball to him.
According to first year head coach Igor Kokoskov, the Suns were instructed to foul to prevent the three-pointer, but they didn’t. With Morris’ back turned towards the rim, that would have been the perfect opportunity. Instead, Boston hits Phoenix with the second action of the play.
Here’s a great angle (and an even better reaction ) of the play:
Kyrie Irving races towards Morris from the back court for a dribble hand off. Kyrie was hot and could have presumably pulled up for a game-tying shot, but when Booker and Canaan both collapse on him, he makes the smart basketball play and kicks it out to Morris for the wide open look.
It seems simple enough, but there’s also an element of psychology that’s baked into the X’s and O’s. Irving had had 12 of the Celtics’ 32 points in the fourth quarter comeback and when he’s coming at you at full force, your natural instinct is to cover him. Unfortunately for Phoenix, that was both Booker and Canaan’s thought, too.
There’s also the revenge element for Morris. It should be noted that Al Horford was not on the floor for that final play in regulation. Horford hasn’t been as good from behind the arc this season, but he’s one of the team’s best playmakers, particularly out of that spot on the floor. But Stevens chose Morris in that critical spot. Morris is currently shooting 48.1% from 3 and if you’re into narratives, has had a long standing beef with the Suns organization after he and his twin brother, Markieff, signed there on hometown discounts and Markieff was unceremoniously shipped out a year later. The Celtics would close out the Suns in overtime after a brief duel between Irving and Booker, but the key moment was not just drawn up seven seconds before the regulation buzzer or five days after losing a nailbiter against the Pacers. It was four years after Morris felt disrespected by Phoenix and he “wanted to disrespect them back.”