Marcus Morris

Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

The Boston Celtics got the win over Memphis, with the team’s second unit chipping in for the victory.

But they still have too many offensive lulls, something head coach Brad Stevens recognizes and to his credit, is continuing to search for ways to address appropriately.

We’ve seen him utilize a starter playing with the backups.

But in Saturday’s 102-93 win at Memphis, Stevens elected to play a pair of starters with the second unit for longer stretches which on this night at least, helped them get the victory to extend their East-leading record to 25-7.

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In fact, Boston had at least two starters on the floor in the fourth quarter for all but the final 28.4 seconds of play.

“It’s one of those things, it’s probably going to go back and forth,” Stevens said. “Based on who’s available.”

A key missing part of the Celtics’ bench rotation is Marcus Morris who continues with rehab on his sore left knee.

Morris, who did not make the trip with the team, is out indefinitely although the Celtics maintain that he’s close to resuming action.

Stevens was asked about his use of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford together, with a trio of reserves.

“If Marcus Morris is here, maybe you don’t play either of them with that group,” Stevens said.

Morris has appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the Celtics this season, averaging 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Indeed, bench production has been an issue for the Boston Celtics all season.

According to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench came into tonight’s game averaging 30.5 points per game which ranked 23rd in the NBA. However, Boston’s defense has limited second units to 32.6 points per game which ranks 8th in the league.

Against the Grizzlies, Boston only had three players off the bench score (Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis) who combined for 26 points.

But as limited as they were scoring the ball, Memphis was even worse with a second unit scoring total of just 15 points.

Of course, rotations are a season-long, always-evolving process that is dependent heavily on not just who is available, but how those who are available to play are performing.

The Celtics’ second unit has had their moments this season, but by and large the team’s success has been heavily fueled by the play of the starters.

Stevens has made it clear, he’ll continue to find ways for those guys to be put in the best positions to succeed individually as well as for the Celtics.

And as long as Morris remains out, you can expect Stevens will continue to find ways to fill that void with increased usage from his starters.

“As long as Marcus Morris isn’t playing,” Stevens said, “We need to be alert to that and guys are going to have to play different rotations.”

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Celtics continue to look for ways to rest Morris' knee

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Celtics continue to look for ways to rest Morris' knee

BOSTON – Al Horford is back in the Boston Celtics’ lineup for tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz. But the news isn’t as encouraging for Marcus Morris.

Horford (rest) missed Boston’s 124-118 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, a decision the Celtics had decided on several weeks prior due to the way the Celtics’ schedule was breaking down.

Put it like this: the Celtics will be at game No. 41, the official halfway point of the season, on Jan. 3 when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And with the 31-year-old Horford being the oldest member on the team and leading them in minutes played, it made sense for the Celtics to have a strategic rest plan in place for the four-time All-Star.

As for Morris, the Celtics will continue to seek out ways to provide him enough downtime to help strengthen his left knee, while also getting him on the floor.

“We don’t have an update on a timeline for him,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s feeling better as the week has gone on.”

I asked Stevens what does Morris have to do at this point to get back on the floor.

“The biggest thing is, feeling better consistently, day to day and not having these setbacks,” Stevens said. “With the schedule we’re in the midst of now, playing every day would not be the answer. I think getting him to feel as good as he can … he’s had a couple different opinions, everybody has come up with the same result and that is strengthen it, work diligently on it, and it shouldn’t be a long-term thing. But let’s make sure that we rest over the next couple of weeks, appropriately.

Stevens added, “He’s had a little bit of a setback here, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be long-term.”

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Ainge: Morris 'going to be playing periodically'

Ainge: Morris 'going to be playing periodically'

BOSTON – The Celtics are in the process of putting together a day-to-day plan for Marcus Morris who has missed four of Boston’s past five games due to left knee soreness.

“We’re still working on that, on a timetable,” Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show. “Marcus is going to be playing periodically. I don’t think he’s going to be shut down for a long period of time. I do anticipate him playing some through this process. How much that is, I’m not quite sure yet.”

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Morris’ has missed 14 games, which is almost as many as he has played in (16) this season.

More testing will be done to get a better feel for the extent of Morris’ injury, which kept him out for the first eight games of the season.

If it’s determined that Morris will be out for an extended period of time, the Celtics have a few options it can pursue.

Among the most likely will be the $8.4 million disabled player exception they received following Gordon Hayward’s dislocated left ankle injury on Oct. 17.

Ainge said there’s always motivation to use the exception but currently “there’s nothing that really excites us.

He added, “the reason we haven’t used it is, we need to be careful with it because we don’t know what injuries may happen over this next stretch. That could be important for us, heading into the late season and into the playoffs and if our roster changes if somebody’s not healthy at a particular position.”

And Ainge made it clear that if they were to use it, they wouldn’t use it on a player to just fill a roster spot and provide depth.

“It’s justified we use it anytime if we feel we have a good use of it,” Ainge said. “If we find something we’re excited about, a player that can really help us as opposed to somebody who can help us get through a rough patch that’s not gonna play for us come playoff time. I’m not really interested in using it for that right now.”
 

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