Celtics

Morris caps off improbable comeback vs Thunder

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Morris caps off improbable comeback vs Thunder

BOSTON – Marcus Morris has never been one to lack for confidence, regardless of time or score.

So with the game on the line, Morris … hesitated?

Uh, not exactly. 

It was a pump fake to create just enough space to launch what would become a game-winning 3-pointer that lifted Boston to an improbable 100-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Morris was asked about his uh, hesitation before draining the first game-winner of his NBA career.

“Hesitation? I don’t even know how to spell hesitation,” quipped Morris. 

Morris arrived in Boston as a two-way talent via trade from Detroit, whose strength was more at the defensive end of the floor.

But with Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) both out, Morris has emerged as one of the team’s primary scoring options. 

“He’s another huge part of our team moving forward,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “If you’re counting on 13 or 14 (points) from him, now we’re counting on 16 or 18.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 100-99 win over Oklahoma City. 

STARS

Marcus Morris: Even before he drained the game-winning basket, Morris was having a good night for the Celtics. He finished with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with four rebounds and one steal.

Jayson Tatum: He has looked to score more now with key players sidelined, and the Celtics will be better for this long-term. Tatum had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Boston. And being 20 years and 17 days old, he became the youngest player in franchise history to have a game of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, bettering the previous record set by Antoine Walker (20 years and 165 days old on Jan. 24, 1997.

Russell Westbrook: A normal night for Russell Westbrook is a career game-like performance for most NBA players. He led the Thunder with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

Paul George: Boston had problems limiting Paul George most of the game. For the second time in as many games this season against Boston, George tallied a double-double. He had 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting along with a game-high 13 rebounds.

 

STUDS

Greg Monroe: On those stretches when the Celtics are thirsty for points, he has been the ultimate thirst-quencher off the bench. He led all reserves on Tuesday with 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

Shane Larkin: He continues to make the most of his increased role with Kyrie Irving out. Larkin had 13 points off the bench on 5-for-9 shooting with four rebounds.

 

DUDS

Carmelo Anthony: He had 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting, but Melo’s impact was minimal at best. What he will be remembered for from this game was the two free throw misses with 8.4 seconds and the Thunder up two points, that set up the Celtics’ Marcus Morris for his game-winning 3-pointer.

Al Horford: This was yet another stinker in terms of shooting the ball, for Al Horford. Not only did he miss shots that he knows he should have knocked down, but many came at a time when the Celtics needed a big shot to get some semblance of control. Usually it’s Horford whose play lifts Boston to victory. But on this night, it was his teammates who bailed him out because if Boston lost this game you can bet there would have been plenty of eyes that would gloss past his seven assists and six rebounds, and instead lock on to his five points (on 2-for-9 shooting) and four turnovers.

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Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown can still hear the murmurs from draft night two years ago shortly after his name was called. 

It was the pinnacle for every kid who has ever dreamed of being an NBA player, and yet Brown’s moment of great adulation from fans became a dream deferred with a mix of cheers and jeers from Celtics fans who felt the team would have been better off packaging the No. 3 pick used on Brown to acquire a more proven talent. 

That would serve as one of the many boulder-sized chips on Brown’s shoulders that has brought him to where he is now, as one of the biggest breakout performers in the playoffs. 

He is coming off a career-high 30 points in Boston’s 120-106 win, making the 21-year-old the youngest player in Celtics history to score 30 or more in a playoff game.

Brown comes into Friday night’s Game 3 matchup leading the Celtics (2-0 in best-of-seven series) averaging a team-high 25 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. 

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What Brown is doing now is a direct reflection of the progress made in his overall game from where it was a year ago, even if it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to him.

“To be honest, I don’t even pay attention to it. I’ve just been playing basketball all year,” Brown said following Tuesday’s win. “My teammates help me out a lot by finding me. Terry (Rozier) found me a lot throughout the course of the game and I was able to take some shots. Ultimately, we just want to win games, so that’s the only thing that we are concerned with. We are confident as ever. Teams have been writing us off all year and we just keep proving people wrong, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Proving folks wrong is part of the narrative that is Brown’s story. 

When he came into the NBA, folks loved his athleticism. But his jumper, ball-handling and defensive awareness needed work. There’s an expectation that with time and experience, young players will get better. But what we’ve seen in Brown is more than just growth. It’s the byproduct of a young man who's extremely motivated to do more than just get better. 

He wants to be the best player on the floor, every minute he’s out there. While it is a goal that he’ll fall short of achieving, Brown is developing into a major, high-impact player before our very eyes. 

“Well I think Jaylen loves the moment,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I think he really appreciated the opportunity like to – to compete on this stage and at this level and we’ve seen him against the better teams in the league all year be able to really raise his level in some of the biggest games. And, you know, I think that obviously he’s gaining more experience by the minute and he – he lived quite a lot last year. And so, he’s one of our more experienced guys in some ways in this setting.”

It is a setting Brown has always felt that it was a matter of when, not if, he would be here. And while he has certainly become a fan favorite, he knows he still has a few skeptics out there.

“I love it. I thrive off it,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When people say this, say that, tell you what you’re gonna do, tell you how successful you are going to be, I smile and keep it moving.”

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Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

BOSTON – When this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series began, there were legitimate questions about how Boston’s youthful backcourt tandem of Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown would hold up against the Bucks and their more experienced tandem led by Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell.

Two games and two Celtics wins later, this hasn’t even been marginally close with Boston’s 1-2 backcourt punch delivering one big shot after another which has been among the keys to Boston taking a 2-0 series lead as Games 3 and 4 shift to Milwaukee.

In two games, Rozier and Brown have outscored Milwaukee’s starting backcourt 96-25.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens believes those numbers are a bit skewed because they don’t take into account the scoring of Khris Middleton whom Stevens considers as being part of the Milwaukee backcourt.

Ok, coach.

Add Middleton’s 56 points scored in the first two games and that brings the Bucks’ perimeter point total up to 81.

“We’re trying a lot of different bodies on Middleton,” Stevens said. “Bledsoe’s a handful because of his ability to drive the ball and knock down shots off screens. And Snell as always been a guy that’s been able to make open shots.”

But if you’re gonna factor in Middleton’s points for Milwaukee, you have to throw in Jayson Tatum’s 23 points in two games which would bring the final tally to 122-81, a staggering lopsided figure as well. 

Stevens knows all too well that the road for his perimeter players and his entire team for that matter, will only get rougher in time.

“We know we have our hands full and our guys are preparing ever game like that’s the case,” Stevens said.

And even with the lopsided nature of the scoring thus far from the starting perimeter players by Boston, there’s still a sense that some Bucks – ok, one Bucks player – isn’t quite ready to put some respect on what the Celtics were able to do perimeter-wise in Games 1 and 2.

Bledsoe, who is averaging 10.5 points in this series, was asked about Rozier’s play after two games which in addition to averaging 23.0 points also includes him failing to turn the ball over once in more than 78 minutes of action.

“Who?” was Bledsoe’s initial responded which was followed by, “I don’t even know who the (expletive) that is.”

Stevens was aware of Bledsoe’s comments about Rozier but made it clear that he was not going to get into anything that might he constructed as a war of words.

“I heard that,” said Stevens about the comments in regards to Rozier before adding, “Our team is just focused on Game 3.”

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