Celtics

Morris caps off improbable comeback vs Thunder

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Morris caps off improbable comeback vs Thunder

BOSTON – Marcus Morris has never been one to lack for confidence, regardless of time or score.

So with the game on the line, Morris … hesitated?

Uh, not exactly. 

It was a pump fake to create just enough space to launch what would become a game-winning 3-pointer that lifted Boston to an improbable 100-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Morris was asked about his uh, hesitation before draining the first game-winner of his NBA career.

“Hesitation? I don’t even know how to spell hesitation,” quipped Morris. 

Morris arrived in Boston as a two-way talent via trade from Detroit, whose strength was more at the defensive end of the floor.

But with Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) both out, Morris has emerged as one of the team’s primary scoring options. 

“He’s another huge part of our team moving forward,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “If you’re counting on 13 or 14 (points) from him, now we’re counting on 16 or 18.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 100-99 win over Oklahoma City. 

STARS

Marcus Morris: Even before he drained the game-winning basket, Morris was having a good night for the Celtics. He finished with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with four rebounds and one steal.

Jayson Tatum: He has looked to score more now with key players sidelined, and the Celtics will be better for this long-term. Tatum had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Boston. And being 20 years and 17 days old, he became the youngest player in franchise history to have a game of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, bettering the previous record set by Antoine Walker (20 years and 165 days old on Jan. 24, 1997.

Russell Westbrook: A normal night for Russell Westbrook is a career game-like performance for most NBA players. He led the Thunder with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

Paul George: Boston had problems limiting Paul George most of the game. For the second time in as many games this season against Boston, George tallied a double-double. He had 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting along with a game-high 13 rebounds.

 

STUDS

Greg Monroe: On those stretches when the Celtics are thirsty for points, he has been the ultimate thirst-quencher off the bench. He led all reserves on Tuesday with 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

Shane Larkin: He continues to make the most of his increased role with Kyrie Irving out. Larkin had 13 points off the bench on 5-for-9 shooting with four rebounds.

 

DUDS

Carmelo Anthony: He had 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting, but Melo’s impact was minimal at best. What he will be remembered for from this game was the two free throw misses with 8.4 seconds and the Thunder up two points, that set up the Celtics’ Marcus Morris for his game-winning 3-pointer.

Al Horford: This was yet another stinker in terms of shooting the ball, for Al Horford. Not only did he miss shots that he knows he should have knocked down, but many came at a time when the Celtics needed a big shot to get some semblance of control. Usually it’s Horford whose play lifts Boston to victory. But on this night, it was his teammates who bailed him out because if Boston lost this game you can bet there would have been plenty of eyes that would gloss past his seven assists and six rebounds, and instead lock on to his five points (on 2-for-9 shooting) and four turnovers.

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WATCH: Kyrie Irving mic'up for Rising Stars Challenge

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WATCH: Kyrie Irving mic'up for Rising Stars Challenge

Boston Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving was coaching the USA team in Friday night's Rising Stars Challenge to close the first night of All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. That included coaching his teammate, Jayson Tatum, who dropped 30 points in the winning effort for the Americans, and dropping some memorable gems during the TNT broadcast.

Asked if he felt some "Red Auerbach vibes" pacing the sideline, Irving joked all that was missing was a cigar. Asked about any coaching pointers, Irving laughed that he was hoping the players got in a defensive stance at least once or twice.

USA went on a run toward the end of Irving's appearance, and that's when he really got going:

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Tatum shines, helps lead Team USA to 161-144 win

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Tatum shines, helps lead Team USA to 161-144 win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Before the season began, Jayson Tatum was viewed by many on the cusp of being a star.

When you think about how an actual star is formed, the parallels are clear.

Solar system-type stars involve light elements being squeezed under intense pressure.

Jayson Tatum played his best basketball as a Celtic during the playoffs when the pressure to perform was at its apex.

That star-creating pressure creates a nuclear fusion reaction that’s explosive.

☘️ CELTICS AT ALL-STAR WEEKEND

Tatum averaged 18.5 points in the playoffs which included a stretch in which he had 20 or more points in seven straight games.

But the stardom many envisioned for the second-year wing, hasn’t quite materialized how they thought it would.

Tatum has been a very good player this season, improving in a number of critical offensive categories.

But the 6-foot-8 forward has not quite elevated his play to superstar status ... yet.

So does that make his play this season disappointing?

Of course not.

Tatum’s focus and the Celtics’ focus for him has been from the outset, to improve upon last season.

And one of the first steps towards becoming a star in this league, is to become a star from within your own draft class.

Selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Tatum has indeed lived up to the lofty billing his draft status warrant.

Looking at players from his draft class, Tatum stacks up favorably in just about every significant statistical category.

And those skills were on display Friday night in the Mountain Dew Rising Stars Challenge pitting the top first- and second-year players from the USA (Team USA) against the top international first- and second-year players (Team World).

Tatum as you might expect stood out, tallying 30 points on 12-for-24 shooting with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in Team USA’s 161-144 win.

“Last year I was little nervous,” said Tatum who played in the Rising Stars Challenge as a rookie last season. “This year I wasn’t nervous at all; I knew what to expect.”

Team USA, coached by Celtics star Kyrie Irving, was led by Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers) who had 35 points.

The leading scorer for Team World was Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers) who had 28 points on 14-for-17 shooting along with five rebounds and six assists.

While the competitive juices weren’t flowing anywhere close to what you see in an NBA regular season game, Tatum’s final stat line in many ways reflects his place among the top young players in the NBA.

And when you throw in his big-game experience in the playoffs, Tatum’s place among the best and brightest young stars is established.

Tatum has played in more games (138) than anyone from his draft class. And his 3-point shooting (40.6 percent) is also tops among the players he entered the league with in 2017.

In addition, Tatum’s a top-five performer from the 2017 draft class in other key categories such as total minutes played (4,245; second); total points scored (2,068, third); rebounds (767, fifth); and field goal percentage (46.5 percent; fourth).

So Tatum’s place among the top players in the NBA is indeed a work in progress. But games like the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night serve as a reminder that Tatum is on the short list of NBA players with star-on-the-making potential.

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