Celtics

Morris plans to 'approach the game as a pro' starting or off bench

Morris plans to 'approach the game as a pro' starting or off bench

WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Morris was one of the last players to show up for the Boston Celtics’ training camp, which is the last thing someone new to a franchise wants.

Not only has it meant playing catch-up in terms of developing chemistry with his new teammates, but it has made it tougher for Morris to achieve what every player in the NBA wants which is to be a starter.

Morris, who was acquired this summer from Detroit in exchange for Avery Bradley, is going to play for the Celtics in the opener Tuesday at Cleveland.

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That’s a given.

But as a starter?

Most of his time since joining the Celtics after being acquitted of assault charges along with his twin brother Markieff earlier this month in Phoenix, has been spent with Boston’s second unit.

But in Boston’s 108-100 preseason win over Charlotte last week, Morris spent the final 4:27 of the second quarter playing with the Celtics’ projected starters – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown.

When the group stepped on the floor together, Boston had a 42-33 lead.

By the time halftime arrived, they had closed out the second quarter with a 15-5 run to lead 57-38.

“It was fun getting out there playing (with the first unit),” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve been practicing with the second team a lot so I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Either way, I have to approach the game as a pro; starting or coming off (the bench). I’d rather be starting, but I gotta do what’s best for the team whatever that’s gonna be.”

Heading into this fifth season as the Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens has not had a roster with this kind of depth or versatility.

Because of that, the Celtics may have starting lineups that are opponent-specific instead of a set starting five.

Boston played four preseason games and had a different starting lineup in each game, and yet still managed to win all four games.

Morris’ desire to be a starter makes sense considering he hasn’t come off the bench in a regular season game since March 9, 2015 against Golden State.

And at 6-foot-9 with the ability to play inside-outside basketball and defend most power forwards and still switch out from time to time on bigs and wing players, Morris’ versatility fits in well with the type of lineups that the Celtics are looking to find success with this season.

Plus, having Morris start at power forward would mean Al Horford shifting over to center.

Last season, the Celtics had quite a bit of success when Horford was playing in the middle and, because of Horford’s ability to stretch the floor, often led to better spacing for Horford’s teammates and opportunities for the 6-10 Horford to score.

“The way our game has changed, power forward and center are so much more interchangeable now,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “My approach to that is the same now as it’s always been; I’ll do whatever has to be done in order to help our team win games.”

And while Morris’ desire to remain a starter is undeniable, he understands circumstances are such that coming off the bench may be the best thing for him and the Celtics right now.

“I did miss training camp and (most of the) preseason,” Morris said.

But by no means would he be resigned to the idea that he’ll be a key reserve all season.

“I would just work my way back into it,” he said. “If I’m playing, I sure hope I do start. But that’s a decision that he (head coach Brad Stevens) makes. However it is, I’m gonna be a pro and approach the game the same way and do what my team needs me to do, to win.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics offense struggles mightily in Game 3 loss to Bucks

Celtics offense struggles mightily in Game 3 loss to Bucks

MILWAUKEE – The Boston Celtics have had their share of offensive clunkers this season.

But few were as painfully woeful as what transpired in the first half of Boston’s 116-92 Game 3 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Boston now has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 in Milwaukee on Sunday and Game 5 back in Boston on Tuesday.

“I didn’t think we were great, but offensively we were horrendous in the first (half),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We were on our heels the whole time.”

Boston found itself in a 16-6 ditch to start the game, and it didn’t get much better from there.

Milwaukee shot 55 percent from the field in the first quarter, but the killer for Boston in the first was their 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) shooting from the field which put the Celtics in a 27-12 hole after one quarter of play.

Offensive struggles are nothing new for Boston which shot 45 percent from the field in the regular season which ranked 23rd in the NBA. 

They haven’t been much better in the playoffs, connecting on just 45.1 percent of their shots which ranks ninth among the 16 teams in the playoffs.

Things got better offensively for Boston in the second quarter and they wound up shooting a respectable 50 percent (10-for-20) from the field. 

But it still wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Bucks who connected on 63.2 percent (12-for-19) of their shots in the second quarter which pushed their halftime lead to 58-35.

“We got in a hole. This is new for our group,” said Al Horford. “It’s the first time we’ve gone on the road in the playoffs in a tough environment. We did some good things there, but at that point, they had it going. Give them credit. They had it going, and we really didn’t have an answer for them tonight.”

And that more than anything else, should be a major concern for the Celtics heading into Game 4 on Sunday.

If they’re not getting more stops defensively, their offense has to be more efficient, more impactful than what we saw in Game 3 if the Celtics are to continue to remain in control. 

“They did what they had to do out there,” Boston’s Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “They were the more desperate team. They did what they had to do. We’ll see them on Sunday.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Middleton has another big game as Celtics fall to Bucks in Game 3

Middleton has another big game as Celtics fall to Bucks in Game 3

MILWAUKEE – Here are the Stars, Studs, and Duds from Boston’s 116-92 Game 3 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

MORE - Stevens: 'We were on our heels the whole time'

STARS

Khris Middleton: It was yet another impactful, highly efficient game for Middleton. He led all scorers with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting along with eight rebounds and seven assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: He was still a central figure in Milwaukee’s scoring, but the Bucks weren’t nearly as dependent on him to carry the scoring load in Game 3. That said, Antetokounmpo still finished with a strong 19-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance. 

Al Horford: Horford had 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting, but didn’t get much help from his teammates who were a combined 25-for-67 (37.3 percent).

 

STUDS

Thon Maker: A seldom-used reserve in Games 1 and 2, Maker was a true difference-maker for the Bucks. In addition to scoring 14 points, he also grabbed five rebounds and tallied five blocked shots.

Eric Bledsoe: Give Bledsoe credit. He said he would be better back in Milwaukee, and he backed it up with a strong performance. He had 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

Bucks bench: The play of Thon Maker stood out, but he wasn’t the only Milwaukee backup to step up with a strong Game 3 performance. Matthew Dellavedova (5 points) and Jabari Parker (17 points on 7-for-12 shooting) were part of a Bucks bench that outscored Boston’s second unit, 50-34.

Aron Baynes: Baynes played 30 minutes and made the most of his opportunities to score, tallying eight points on 3-for-3 shooting (he made both of his 3-point attempts) along with grabbing eight rebounds.

 

DUDS

Terry Rozier: We haven’t seen Terry Rozier struggle like we did in Game 3 in quite some time. Rozier, who came in averaging 23 points after the first two games, had just nine points on 2-for-7 shooting in Game 3. More significant was Rozier’s five turnovers – he had zero in Games 1 and 2.

Marcus Morris: Milwaukee did a much better limiting Marcus Morris who was a major matchup in Games 1 and 2. In Friday’s Game 3 matchup, Morris had just seven points on 2-for-8 shooting.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE