Celtics

New-look Celtics know they have still have to 'bring their game'

New-look Celtics know they have still have to 'bring their game'

WALTHAM, Mass. – After being acquired via trade from Detroit this summer, Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris will be suiting up for his fourth team in seven seasons.

But this season will be unlike any other for Morris as he joins a Celtics’ roster that was significantly strengthened in the offseason with a roster overhaul that, now that the dust has settled, leaves them with a lineup that includes three All-Stars – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford.

“That’s a big change for me,” Morris, who will miss the first week of the season due to right knee soreness, told NBC Sports Boston.

The same is true for the rest of his teammates as they gear up for the season opener at Cleveland on Tuesday.

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Boston has not gone into a season with this level of excitement and heightened expectations since Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were donning the green and white.

While Cleveland remains the team to beat in the East, the Celtics aren’t that far behind.  

And while the KG-Pierce-Allen triumvirate was credited with much of the success Boston enjoyed during their time, their success was a collective effort because of the contributions of many who understood and embraced their roles.

For the most part, the current group of Celtics have done just that.

But the true test of their selflessness, of their willingness to put the team first and foremost, won’t have a chance to materialize until Tuesday’s season opener against the Cavs.

Marcus Smart, the longest-tenured Celtic on the roster, has played starter-like minutes his entire career in Boston and was under strong consideration to be in the starting lineup.

After going back and forth with the idea prior to preseason games, coach Brad Stevens ultimately decided to keep Smart coming off the bench to help lead what’s shaping up to be an extremely young second unit.

While Smart would love to start, more important to him is being a player that’s significantly contributing to the team’s success which often means being on the floor in the decisive fourth quarter of games.

“I’ve been a starter my whole life,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve also come off the bench as well. We have a lot of great players. It doesn’t really matter. It’s easy to be in the game and play when things are going well. The buzzer just goes off, it’s tip ball. Everybody just getting warmed up. It’s hard to play at the end of the game, Eastern Conference finals and the game is on the line. Your nerves are going crazy and it’s your first time there. Those are the moments you want to be in. So, it doesn’t matter if you start or not. You want to be in at the end of the game. That’s when it really counts.”

And there’s a very good chance that he’ll be on the floor with Boston’s new Big Three who each bring a different set of skills to the floor that collectively give the Celtics hope that they can take one more step forward after advancing to the Eastern Conference finals last season.

As important as it is to figure out the best way to mesh their skills with the Big Three, it’s also vital that they remain true to who they are as players and not get into defer-mode which would do more harm than prove helpful to the Celtics’ chances at success.

Everyone has a role on this team.

It’s that simple.

“If I don’t come to play and I don’t bring my grittiness and my game and my scoring, I would be letting the team down,” Morris said. “Even though we have three All-Stars, we need everybody to bring their game every night and play. I’m still gonna step up and do what I gotta do.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

BOSTON – Well, so much for the Boston Celtics being hungover following their first loss in more than a month.
 
If anything, the loss at Miami on Wednesday served as a wake-up call for the Celtics to avoid easing their way into games.
 
Because the Celtics jumped on the Magic early and never lost control of the game as they cruised to a 118-103 win.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 30 points while Terry Rozier came off the Celtics bench to score a career-high 23 points. Nikola Vucevic led the Magic (8-11) with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
 
After leading by as many as 32 points, the Magic opened the fourth quarter against Boston’s backups, with a 13-3 run that cut Boston’s lead to 102-82.
 
The Magic would score six of the game’s next eight points before Rozier drained a much-needed 3-pointer that increased Boston’s lead to 107-88 with 6:48 to play.
 
Following an Orlando timeout, Boston continued to play with a huge lead and in doing so, got a big, bounce-back win.
 
One of the issues Boston was having, even during the 16-game winning streak, was that they didn’t get off to the greatest starts evident by them trailing by double digits in the first half of each of their previous four games prior to tonight’s game.
 
But that would not be the case tonight; not even close actually.
 
Leading 22-19 in the first, Boston went on an 18-7 run to take a commanding 40-26 lead
 
The 40 points scored were the most they tallied in the first quarter of a game this season.
 
And while the points weren’t as abundant in the second quarter, Boston’s dominance was just as great.
 
On this night, the Celtics were an equal opportunity destroyer.
 
Kyrie Irving had a very Kyrie Irving kind of night with 17 points in the first half.
 
The Celtics also got an unexpected boost from its bench, led by Rozier who had 13 points in the first half.
 
It seemed no matter who Brad Stevens turned to off the bench, it was a given that they would have a positive impact on this night.
 
Meanwhile, the Magic could muster up little fight or resistance as Boston’s lead peaked at 28 points (68-40) before the half ended with Boston in charge with a commanding 73-47 lead.
 
It’s rare for a team to have such a commanding halftime lead, the kind of lead that makes a team oh-so-vulnerable to a second-half letup.
 
Not the Celtics; not tonight at least.
 
Boston continued to play with a purpose; to not just win but do so in an emphatic, consistently dominant fashion.
 
Sporting a lead of 20-plus points throughout the third quarter, Boston went into the fourth quarter leading 99-69.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

celtics_marcus_morris_112417.jpg

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics will turn to a familiar starting lineup as they try to get back on their winning ways following Wednesday’s loss at Miami.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Marcus Morris will be in the starting lineup tonight against Orlando, joining the usual Celtics foursome of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.

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Morris’ availability tonight was not a given, similar to it being in question prior to Wednesday’s game against the Heat.
 
Morris has been dealing with soreness in his left knee which kept him out for the first eight games of the season and has limited his playing time since then.
 
Stevens said Morris will likely not play against Indiana on Saturday but no final decision has been made. Since returning to the lineup, the Celtics have played Morris with a minutes restriction in addition to not allowing him to play in any back-to-back games.

Morris has made it clear that he does not like having his playing time limited while not playing in any back-to-backs, but has repeatedly he understands why it is being done and won’t fight what the coaching and medical staff believe is best for him and the team.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE