Celtics

Morris glad to leave Phoenix in rear-view mirror

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Morris glad to leave Phoenix in rear-view mirror

BOSTON – Marcus Morris is well-versed on the transient nature of the NBA having already been traded three times in six-plus seasons.

Of the teams he has played for, there’s only one organization that still leaves a bitter taste in his mouth – the Phoenix Suns.

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Morris made it clear that he has nothing but love for his former teammates in Phoenix.

“It’s more about [the organization],” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “I just don’t like the way they treat players. People come out there every day and they bust their [expletive], and they think that because you make a certain amount of money, they don’t have feelings … I just don’t agree with a lot of things that they do.”

Morris, who was drafted by the Houston Rockets, was traded to Phoenix in February of 2013, reuniting him with his twin brother Markieff.

Phoenix wanted to re-sign both players and did so from a $52 million pool of money the brothers split up.

Both Morris brothers could have hit free agency and likely garnered more money around that time, but they felt taking less money was worth the opportunity to play with one another.

But Phoenix wanted to bolster its roster, which meant trying to create more salary cap flexibility and so they wound up trading Marcus Morris to Detroit and later sent his brother to Washington.

Even though Marcus Morris is still bothered some by how things went down in Phoenix, being traded from a franchise that has struggled to win in recent years regardless of the moves they have made,  has actually been a blessing.

Marcus Morris is a steady rotation player for a Celtics team which has the best record in the NBA. And his brother plays for a Washington Wizards team that has struggled in large part because of injuries (he was out for the early part of the season with a sports hernia), but will likely be among the top teams in the East when all is said and done.

Here are five under-the-radar storylines as Boston looks to keep on its winning ways as they host Phoenix this afternoon:

 


STAY FOCUSED
The Suns (8-15) are having yet another bad season, having cut loose then-coach Earl Watson just three games in and replaced him with Jay Triano. Boston’s biggest competition today will likely be themselves. The Celtics are a deeper, more talented team from top to bottom. They should win today’s game going away with relative ease, but only if they continue along the path we’ve seen thus far.

DEVIN BOOKER
The last time Booker set foot on the TD Garden floor, he absolutely lit up the Celtics like no one has in recent memory. He dropped a career-high 70 points against the Celtics last season which led to a back-and-forth Twitter beef between Booker and then-Celtic Jae Crowder with Boston emerging with a 130-120 win. It’ll be worth watching to see what impact if any will Jaylen Brown’s defense has on Booker.

JAYLEN BROWN
The shooting numbers have not been great for Brown lately. In Boston’s last three games, he has shot just 30 percent (10-for-30) from the field while averaging eight points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. But the second-year wing has still been able to maintain a relatively strong presence defensively which is why he’s likely to continue playing significant minutes for Boston.

JOSH JACKSON
Jackson got his wish on draft night which was to be bypassed by the Celtics who had the No. 3 pick, and be selected by the Suns at No. 4. The Celtics were miffed that he canceled a workout in Sacramento while they were in the air bound for the West coast. But it’s fair to say that the Celtics are very happy with how things worked. They wound up selecting Jayson Tatum who has blossomed into one of the top rookies in the league this season. One of the concerns for Jackson was whether he would get a decent amount of playing time if Boston selected him. Actually, he’s now playing fewer minutes (21.4) with a bad Phoenix team, than Tatum (30.5) is for a Boston team that has the NBA’s best record.

DRIVE THE BALL
One area where the Suns are certainly going to try and find success will be attacking the rim. And they’ll do that with a steady diet of dribble-drive action. The Suns are ranked ninth in the NBA in drives (45.7) per game. Boston is at the opposite end of the drive the game, averaging 35.4 per game and ranks 27th in the league.

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Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

New experiences are a given when you have as many new faces as the Boston Celtics have this season.

Monday’s 108-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls?

Yup, that’s a new one.

You can rest assured the Celtics won’t dwell on this loss too long. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be forgotten quickly, either.

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As the Boston Celtics piled up the wins this season (they still lead the East with a 23-6 record), head coach Brad Stevens has tried to keep his team humble, reminding them that if they don’t play well they can be beat by anybody … even the Bulls.

Even in defeat, Boston has managed to at least give themselves a shot at winning with good energy and effort from most if not every player that steps on the court.

“We have a young group, so we usually have a lot of energy,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters afterwards. “We just couldn’t find it tonight. We start off bad, we usually find a way to come back and rally into the game. We could just never get it going.”

Boston’s Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“Credit to our group. We go out, we fight every night,” Horford said. “And tonight, we pushed but they answered back. We never caught a break. There were times there, we could have had a three (3-pointer) and we missed it. And then they come down and hit a three. It was kind of like … one of those nights, everything was working their way. Gotta give them credit. They came out the aggressor. They held it and we didn’t have it tonight.”

Of course, the easy way to explain away what happened was to point out the impact of not having Kyrie Irving (quads injury).

While there’s no question not having the team’s top scorer has a negative impact on the team’s overall play, the Celtics are a team that’s rooted in strong defensive play which should have been on display against Chicago.

Instead of Boston’s defense taking the lead, they were a non-factor most of the night, especially when it came to Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis who had 24 and 23 points, respectively.

“We didn’t challenge Mirotic or Portis at all,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they got to the rim whenever they wanted.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, they return home where they can try and get back on a winning track after losing two of their last three games.

“We have to respond against Denver (on Wednesday),” Brown said. “When we come back and play them, we should have more energy.”

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Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Following Boston’s 108-85 thumping at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, Brad Stevens had a very succinct message for his team after the loss.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked!” he told them.

While that’s true, it’s rare for an elite team, or least one with an elite-team record, to get beaten so soundly by another squad that while playing better of late, is still the worst team in the league.

“Chicago dictated the whole game; they played harder than we did,” Stevens said. “They played with more presence than we did; played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

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Losing is something that all teams, good and bad, have to deal with and experience. But the way Chicago dominated play for most of the night, was something new for this Celtics team that has consistently come back from huge deficits to win.

But Stevens has cautioned repeatedly how his team was playing with fire making that part of their narrative this season, knowing there would be times when they just wouldn’t be able to muster up the necessary plays at either end of the floor and rally for a victory.

Monday was that night.

“We’ve had a chance to win every game except for this one,” Stevens said. “This one was obvious, even when we were making our run in the third it was kind of back and forth. And they hit every big shot they needed to kind of stem the tide when it was an 11-point game or put it back to 14. We just had too many easy errors from our standpoint. And then, they made plays.”

And in doing so, they absolutely out-played the Celtics in every way imaginable.

“I don’t want to chalk it up to, ‘hey you’re gonna have nights like this,’” Stevens said. “We just got our butt kicked; we’ll take that and move forward.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-85 beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bulls who despite winning three straight, have now moved up to a tie for the worst record (6-20) in the NBA, with Atlanta.

  

STARS

Nikola Mirotic

The Boston Celtics had no answer for Mirotic who lit the Celtics up for 24 points. “We didn’t do a great job guarding him and he made us pay for that,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good offensive player.”

Bobby Portis

Coming off the bench, Portis gave the Celtics fits from the perimeter as well as around the rim before finishing with a season-high 23 points. “Portis got going from (3-point range),” Stevens said. “We played with no presence.”

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving

He didn’t log a single minute on Monday, but his presence was definitely felt. Boston looked completely lost and discombobulated with their four-time all-star out of the lineup with a quads injury.

 

DUDS

Every Celtic on the active roster

There’s just not enough space to go through all the players that failed the Celtics miserably on Monday. The starters. The bench. The two-way players called up. This was not just the worst game of the season for the Celtics, but one of the worst ever in Stevens’ four-plus seasons as the Celtics head coach. “It was a collective success for them, and a collective failure for us,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

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