Midway through the second quarter as the Celtics were mounting their first comeback against the visiting Kings, Corey Brewer rushed the ball down in transition and Marcus Smart fouled him before he could get an easy look at the rim. It wasn’t anything egregious, but a small scuffle broke out with Marcus Morris holding court against a trio of Kings. D’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, and Buddy Hield, and later Harry Giles.
It wasn’t a heated display like when Mook got right in the face of Tristan Thompson in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Morris remained calm and unfazed, but stout and stern. He wasn’t going to get pushed around or intimidated by a bunch of young pups. That’s been Morris’ vibe all season: confidence, consistency, and character.
Before the All Star break, Brad Stevens called Morris the most reliable Celtic to date. There were rumblings that he could even represent the team in Charlotte, either in the Three Point Contest or as a first time All-Star. Through the first 53 games, he was shooting a career high 47.6% from the field and 40.9% from behind the arc. His fifteen points and six rebounds a night were one of the reasons why the Celtics kept their heads above water when the team was struggling early.
However, he’s fallen back to earth a bit. Over the last eleven contests, his shooting percentage has drastically dipped under 40% and his three-point shooting is a dismal 26.5 3FG%. The conversation has shifted from “should the Celtics seriously consider re-signing Morris next summer” to “Morris has regressed and should be taken out of the starting lineup.”
Against Sacramento, Morris turned in his best game since February. He scored 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including 3 of 7 from behind the arc, and pulled down a season-high 13 rebounds in a healthy 36 minutes of play. When asked about finding his rhythm and getting it going after a tough stretch, Morris said, “just playing hard, man. The scoring part, you know, I actually didn’t score the ball. I just wanted to turn up my defensive intensity and rebound the ball better.”
“That’s what it really was. Shots are going to come, miss or make, but as long as I’m engaged in rebounding and defense, it is what it is.”
Many post season predictions have put the Celtics’ success on the shoulders of Gordon Hayward or Jaylen Brown, two wings that have picked it up since the new year. Both were displaced in favor of the Marcuses early on in the season and some have argued that it’s time to re-insert them into the starting lineup. While Morris’ production on the floor may have fluctuated, his demeanor hasn’t and that may be something to rely on as the team heads into the playoffs. There’s always time for a versatile bully, right?