It gets harder to find problematic areas when a team wins 15 straight, like the Boston Celtics have.
But there are some. Boston’s inability to develop a consistent scoring threat when the second-unit players are on the floor hasn’t cost them a game yet, but you can see it coming if they don’t address this at some point.
Well, the answer to their second-unit struggles may be staring them right in the face – Marcus Morris.
While he does go back and forth as a starter, keeping him on the floor in the second quarter with the second unit makes sense for all involved.
Morris is a better scorer than many expected, but opportunities aren’t as plentiful with the first group. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are the top two options. The team’s young wings, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, probably stack up slightly higher in the scoring pecking order than Morris.
So for him to get quality looks with the second unit in the second quarter not only helps the team offensively, but it keeps Morris even more engaged than he already is.
We saw that in Saturday’s win over the Hawks.
Morris had 14 points, with 10 coming in the second quarter when he was surrounded primarily with players off the bench.
“We need Marcus quite a bit,” said coach Brad Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back.”
Morris missed the first eight games of the season because of a sore left knee. Since his return, his minutes have been capped at around 25 or less, in addition to not playing back-to-back nights..
But as he continues to play a more significant role, look for his minutes -- and his role as a primary scorer in the second quarter -- to increase.
“He brings us scoring," Stevens said. "He brings us defense, he brings us toughness, and we really needed his scoring (against Atlanta), his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”
Here’s a look at five other takeaways from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta to extend the team’s winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.
JAYLEN BROWN'S EMERGENCE
The improvement in Jaylen Brown has been evident all season, but it's really spiked the last two games. The second-year wing player dropped 22 points on Golden State Thursday, then followed that up with a career-high 27 Saturday. Conventional wisdom tells you not to bank on Brown delivering like that on a consistent basis. But as a former No. 3 overall pick who works as hard as Brown does . . . would anyone be surprised if this becomes a new-norm when it comes to Brown?
HORFORD STREAK CONTINUES
Early foul trouble and an overall lack of flow offensively had Al Horford looking at having his first game of the season with a negative plus/minus. At the half he was at -16. Then came the Celtics’ second half surge which saw them turn a 16-point deficit in the first half into a double-digit victory. And Horford’s plus/minus? For the game he stood at +2, keeping his streak alive of having a positive plus/minus in every game played this season.
An efficient scoring Kyrie Irving is an NBA team’s worst nightmare. One of the league’s well-established scorers, Irving was just too much for the Atlanta Hawks to handle. And the end result was one of the most efficient scoring nights in Irving’s career as he tallied a game-high 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting.
TATUM'S SECOND-HALF SURGE
For the second straight game, Jayson Tatum did not begin playing his best basketball until the second half. Against the Hawks, Tatum scored all of his 14 points in the second half. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, 10 of his 12 points came in the second half. “For whatever reason he was pretty tentative (in the first half),” said Stevens. “He’s a good player, so struggles aren’t going to last long. He’ll figure it out.”
SMART'S SHOOTING (SLIGHTLY) BETTER
There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to Marcus Smart’s shooting. Against the Hawks, he had 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. Now the numbers won’t wow you, but they are a huge step in the right direction in comparison to how he has been chucking up shots lately. In Boston’s previous five games, Smart was a face-cringing 10-for-52 shooting, or 19.2 percent from the field. Even with all the impact he makes consistently with his defense and effort, that number has to continue to improve if Boston is able to continue along its winning ways.