OKLAHOMA CITY – Seeing his first action of the season on Friday night, Marcus Morris was just as surprised as the folks watching at home on NBC Sports Boston when he was with the first unit to start the second half.
“I didn’t even know I was going to start (the third quarter) until the buzzer went off and coach (Brad Stevens) was like, ‘you starting,’” Morris recalled. “I think we picked up the pace a little more, I got a couple of run-outs, got to the free throw line a little bit, trying to give our offense jump-started a little bit.”
As much as Al Horford and Kyrie Irving get props for the way they led the Celtics down the stretch to a 101-94 win over Oklahoma City, the play of Morris in the third quarter was instrumental in Boston getting close enough to where the Horford-Irving tandem could take over and carry the team towards an impressive seventh straight win.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his words about how important Morris is going to be to the team this season.
Morris showed exactly why on Friday.
Like so many of Boston’s role players, Morris’ numbers don’t begin to tell how much of an impact he had on Boston (7-2) extending the longest current winning streak in the NBA.
He had nine points, four rebounds and a steal while shooting 3-for-8 from the field.
But his defense, particularly on Carmelo Anthony was a major factor in Boston getting the win.
Anthony finished with a double-double of 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, but in the third quarter he was scoreless while missing all six of his shots from the field.
“In the past, Melo has always been one of my favorite players,” Morris said. “I always watched a lot of film on him. Sometimes I think I have an advantage when I’m guarding him because I studied his movements and stuff like that; try to be tough with him, be physical with him. Like I said, he’s one of the best players in the league; just try to contest and be strong.”
Following the victory, Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, tweeted the following:
Jaylen Brown, who tallied a double-double of 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, was among those impressed with Morris in his debut as a Celtic.
“He (Morris) brought that presence,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “Offensively he didn’t get it going probably as much as he wanted to, but enough for us to get a win. He was a presence for us offensively and defensively on Melo, making it hard on him. That’s what we needed.”
With such a solid debut, it’s unclear if Morris will play on Sunday at Orlando or Monday at Atlanta.
Stevens said prior to the game that Morris would not play in back-to-back games.
Morris said he was pleasantly surprised that his conditioning was not an issue against the Thunder, adding that he felt really good after the game.
Still, the Celtics are likely to continue to be overly cautious with him and as much as he would want to play in the next two games, there’s still a high probability that he will be held out of one of them.
Even though the Magic have a much better record than the Hawks, Morris said he’s not picky when it comes to opponents.
“I’m just trying to play,” Morris said, adding that he anticipated he will suit up against the Magic. “And see how I feel if I do play in a back-to-back.”