Carmelo Anthony didn't speak after Saturday's loss to the Wizards. According to the New York Knicks, he couldn't because of a migraine that they said bothered him starting late in the first quarter. That was fitting because for the entire second half, it was Markieff Morris who compounded the All-Star's problem with headaches.
Anthony, who averaged 35 points in the first to meetings with the Wizards this season, was ineffective in a 99-89 loss in which the Knicks blew an 18-point lead. Coach Randy Wittman went from Otto Porter, who had trouble dealing with his strength in the mid-post, to Morris. Anthony had 20 points on 21 shots, going 2 of 9 after the switch was made.
In five NBA seasons, this was the first time that Morris, a 6-10 combo forward, had matched up exclusively with Anthony.
"We wanted to keep more size on him, be a little physical with him and keep him away from the basket a little bit more, said Morris, who had 17 points, four rebounds and three steals.
That he did. Morris and Marcin Gortat trapped Anthony with the ball on the Knicks' first possession of the third quarter and he passed out for a turnover. Then seeming to take the challenge from Morris a bit personal, Anthony went into rhythm-killing isolations to try to get the job done.
Anthony missed a 20-foot jumper with Morris' extended hand in his face. He bricked a three-point attempt. There was a bad pass for a turnover. A contested pullup fell short. Battling Anthony just to catch the ball cleanly on the perimeter, Morris battled him for every inch to negate him at the rim on a drive to the basket which led to Morris throwing down a dunk off a missed three-point shot by teammate John Wall at the other end.
"Keef was really good," Wittman said. "Being able to move him over, being able to put some better size on him was big. His activity at both ends was fabulous."
The edge that the Wizards liked so much about Morris, a key reason why they traded for him last month, showed when asked about Anthony's tendency to try to bully his way against the likes of Porter who is 6-8 but not strong enough.
"Not with me," Morris said.
Unlike what took place Thursday, when Morris was tossed out for a Flagrant 2 foul on Isaiah Canaan in a win at the Philadelphia 76ers, he stayed out of foul trouble (two).
He gives the Wizards (34-35) a dimension at forward that they lacked when Jared Dudley was the starter. He's longer, more athletic and can be used in situations like this to give the opponent different looks.
"We didn't have anyone to match him and Markieff did a great job of contesting and challenging him at the rim," Wall said.
His brother, Marcus, is a starting small forward for the Detroit Pistons. Like Anthony, he has a perimeter skill set that Morris was used to seeing despite not being familiar with the matchup.
"I got a twin brother so some of that that's in him is in me too," Morris said in reference to defending smaller players. "(Anthony) is an elite scorer. I was trying to pressure him way out, not trying to let him catch the ball easy. That was my first step, and just contesting all his shots. If he has a good game, he has a good game."