First, it was Gerald Green who lasted just seven minutes as the starting power forward. Then came Amir Johnson and he lasted just five. Neither yielded a single bucket for the Boston Celtics but they led the Wizards in the East semifinals 2-0 anyway.
After losing Game 3 with Green, who is more of the stretch option, the Celtics went with Johnson in Game 4 and it was equally disastrous. Meanwhile, the Wizards hit them with a steady dose of Markieff Morris time and again and got results.
"We're the better team and we feel like we've been the better team," said Morris, who has dominated the matchup and had 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in Sunday's 121-102 victory for Washington. "If we go out there and play like that, we can get the win.
"Either way, they're in a lose-lose switching that guy."
Johnson has the size but lacks the skill or finesse to combat Morris, who is 6-10 but can face up from long range and break him down off the dribble. Green is an undersized scorer who is a liability in the low post trying to defend Morris. Neither can rebound with him, either, which is where the Wizards have been plus-12 and plus-14 in the last two games. If Celtics coach Brad Stevens attempts a three-guard lineup and Marcus Smart finds himself on Morris, that's an even easier assignment for him.
Boston cross-matched because of Morris, having Al Horford defend him while Johnson shifted to Marcin Gortat who is even bigger in Game 4. The Wizards took advantage of that by using more screen action with Gortat to put Johnson, who is a weak defender vs. guards, in space on John Wall.
It seems like a game of musical chairs, and regardless of Morris' statistics shows it or not game to game, his presence leads to issues because the Celltics must assume the risk to compensate for him. Both teams switch on defense at that position, but Morris is OK vs. no matter who his assignment becomes after the switch because there's no mismatch gained by the opposition, The Celtics don't have that luxury.
Jae Crowder took some of the burden on Morris on Sunday but ended up with five fouls before the third quarter ended. While he has the physical strength to battle down low, he's still underized defensively and is mostly a catch-and-shoot player offensively which doesn't present problems for Morris.
Morris scored the Wizards' first two points of the second half but grabbing an offensive rebound and getting foul shots on Crowder. Morris switched onto Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley and kept them in front of him. Johnson, Green, Crowder and Smart can't do the same consistently vs. Wall and Bradley Beal.
If the Wizards are able to win this series, look back at this inability to match up on Boston's part and the trickle-down effect as a signficant reason.
"Keef, he's a special player," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I love coaching him. I like his toughness. I like his passion. He's a matchup problem. We don't care if they go small or big. We know if we have Keef he can guard smalls or he can guard bigs."
The left ankle spain that caused Morris to leave Game 1 is a distant memory. He hasn't had any issues with it since Horford stuck his foot underneath him on a jump shot and he has played with an extra edge ever since then.
The Wizards still have to win a game at TD Garden where they're 0-4 this season to upset the No. 1 seed in the East. Morris isn't concerned about that part. It's the attitude they need to carry with them for Wednesday's pivotal Game 5.
"For sure it's going to be hard. They're still a good team. It's Boston," Morris said. "I feel as though, we all feel as though we're the better team even to start the series. This is what we wanted during the regular season when it was chippy and we (were) going at it. We wanted Boston in the playoffs. We got to go out there and act like that and I think we did the last couple of games."