Celtics

Injuries, Morris' play making it hard to stick to minute restriction

Injuries, Morris' play making it hard to stick to minute restriction

BOSTON – The plan all along has been to bring Marcus Morris along at a gradual pace, and slowly but surely increase his minutes.

But that plan is becoming increasingly hard to do for the Boston Celtics.

Injuries to key players for the Celtics has created a greater need to get Morris some extended minutes.

But the bigger factor has been Morris’ play which was instrumental in Boston defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 107-96.

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Morris finished with a season-high 18 points 7-for-15 shooting.

Not only did he score the ball well, but delivered some of the biggest shots of the night for Boston (10-2) which extended its league-best winning streak to 10 games.

In the fourth quarter, Morris hit a short 11-foot jumper and followed that up 21 seconds later with an assist to Marcus Smart for a 3-pointer that put Boston ahead 94-88 with 7:30 to play.

The Lakers could not get any closer for the remainder of the game, one in which Morris capped off the scoring with a fade-away shot with 32.1 seconds to play that would prove to be the final made basket of the night for either team.

It was a much-needed performance by Morris to help the Celtics win, a game that Morris acknowledged afterward had his left knee, the one that had soreness which kept him sidelined for Boston’s first eight games and nine of the 12 this season, in more pain than usual.

“Today was more sore than others,” Morris acknowledged after the win. “My minutes restriction, for the time being I’m playing 22-25 minutes so just trying to see how it responds game-to-game, see if it’ll get better, see if it’ll get worse.”

When asked if the soreness will lead to him taking more time off to rest it, Morris said, “I can’t. As long as nothing’s wrong with it, mentally I won’t allow myself to (miss more games).”

Said Stevens: “We’re still trying to manage his minutes appropriately. He played more (against the Lakers) than he had played in either of the two previous games.”

Stevens said the plan is to slowly increase his minutes, but that was more challenging than he anticipated against the Lakers.

“It was hard to take him out,” Stevens said. “Because he really impacted the game, because he could post when they were playing small.”

He also benefited from playing with Baynes on Wednesday, his former teammate in Detroit.

“Mook (Morris) and I had some good times out there,” said Baynes who had a career-high-tying 21 points. “He hit me in the post. I was just trying to hit him as well. We definitely started out on the right foot. He made a few 3’s, and that’s what he does. When we’re starting to feel comfortable, it’s fun being out there with each other.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

The streak is over! The streak is over!

We now return the Boston Celtics to their regularly scheduled pursuit of success without the growing pressure that comes with a historically relevant winning streak.

The 104-98 loss at Miami on Wednesday night brought an end to what had been one of the more unlikely winning streaks we’ve seen in the NBA for quite some time.

Boston reeled off 16 straight wins, many of which were the come-from-a-double-digit-deficit variety. In the end, the Celtics’ winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in this storied franchise’s history.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said following the loss. “But we do have a lot of resolve.”

That resolve will surely be challenged with the Celtics taking Thanksgiving off, only to return and play three games in the next four nights beginning with Orlando on Friday, followed by a road game at Indiana on Saturday and a home date against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.

Here are five takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

KYRIE FOR MVP?

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving during the offseason, there was a sense that his presence would be a plus in some capacity, at some point. But few envisioned Irving would not only have a relatively seamless fit with the Celtics, but deliver in such a way that would catapult them to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, establish him as one of the early front-runners for the league’s MVP award. This season, Irving is averaging a team-best 22.5 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field but most important, the Celtics (16-3) have the best record in the NBA.

WANTED: BENCH SCORER

If you are a fan of good defenders, you probably love the Boston Celtics’ second unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are both ball-hawking defenders who can make some miserable times for opponents when they are on top of their game. Daniel Theis provides great energy on the glass and defensively. But the second unit needs a jolt offensively. Because as good as they can defend collectively, the Celtics have to have at least one starter on the floor most of the time because the bench doesn’t have an adequate collector of buckets that they can rely on consistently. Marcus Morris looks like an ideal choice for that role, but the left knee soreness that kept him out for eight games seems to be flaring up from time to time. Whether they address this with a trade or possibly with a player bought out, the lack of a second-unit scorer is very much an issue for this team.

BROWN EMERGES AS TWO-WAY TALENT

The plan was for Jaylen Brown to be an elite, shut-down defender this season. He has shown himself to be a good defender this season, but what has really made him stand out is the growth in his game offensively. The second-year wing has scored 20-plus points in three of Boston’s last four games. Doing that along with continuing to play good defense has him looking like one of the NBA’s promising young two-way talents.

TATUM’S GROWTH A SILVER LINING IN HAYWARD INJURY

You never want to see the Boston Celtics or any team for that matter, lose a player for the season let alone one who meant as much as Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. But if there is a silver lining in his ankle injury which is expected to keep him out all season, it is the opportunity it created for Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old has been arguably the best player from last June’s draft class, playing major minutes with a major role for the team with the best record in the NBA. The opportunity to play around 30 minutes a game would not have been there for Tatum if Hayward didn’t get hurt. The challenge for Tatum going forward is to stay consistent, because now that teams have seen him for almost a quarter of the season, you can expect they will make some adjustments in how they defend him as well as try to attack him when he’s defending.

WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

During Boston’s 16 game winning streak, the Celtics played the last eight games in 16 nights. That’s a game every other night for more than two weeks. In that time, there’s little to no time for practice which has been a factor in Boston not being quite as sharp in the last few games, as they were at the start of the streak. After Thanksgiving, Boston plays three games in four nights with a pair of days off to follow before they return to action. There’s a very good chance that the Celtics will use one of those two days to practice, something this team desperately needs to clean up some of the minor mistakes that were big problems in their loss to the Heat on Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

0:41 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and DJ Bean discuss the Celtics 16-game winning streak being snapped by the Miami Heat.

6:05 - Tom Curran and Mike Giardi talk about Tom Brady missing practice due to an Achilles injury and Randy Moss’ chances to make the Hall of Fame.

11:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the mental and physical fatigue that the streak had on the Celtics and if there is a sense of relief that the streak is over.  

16:11 - With it being the 5th anniversary of the Butt Fumble, we compare it to other embarrassing sports moments in history.