A day off is just what the doctor ordered for Markieff Morris, who sat out the previous game at the Brooklyn Nets to recover from a sore right calf. He responded with his best game of the season Friday vs. a more significant opponent in the Indiana Pacers.
Morris' wide-open three-pointer with 50.6 seconds left held off the last push by Paul George as the Wizards (32-21) now lead the season series 2-1 and already surpass their home win total from a season ago with 23.
"Felt good," said Morris, who shot 11 of 18, including 3 of 6 on threes. "I had three to four days off. Made some shots."
That included a dunk off a pass from John Wall that caromed, went up in the air, came down and danced into the hoop for an 18-13 lead in the first quarter; a three-pointer for a 75-70 lead at 5:24 of the third quarter; an assist to Bradley Beal for a three-pointer and a 100-96 lead with 4:02 left; and his own three that was the capper in the final minute to help the Wizards clinch it 112-107.
As Beal missed two free throws with the Wizards up 108-102, Morris ripped away the loose ball rebound from Kevin Seraphin and proceeded to exchange high fives with fans on the floor before the play ended. Wall would go to the line for more free throws to extend it to a three-possession game with 30 seconds left. It was Morris' 10th rebound and the type of hustle play that has boosted them to new heights in the East.
Indiana tried to defend Morris with Lavoy Allen and he was isolated and dominated at will. Whether it was being faced up or beaten to the basket for a putback, Morris' play overode Paul George's denial defense of Beal and Otto Porter's foul trouble that neutralized the NBA's most accurate three-point shooter.
"Since the month of January, Keef has been playing great for us," said John Wall, who had a game-high 14 assists. "When teams switch he can post up and score in the post. He's doing a great job of rebounding and defending. He's shooting the three with a lot of confidence. It's paying off for us. A lot of teams leaving him open. They're not leaving Otto and Brad as much so he's the next guy they're leaving open and he's knocking down shots for us."
Morris has had to manage his right foot and ankle issues for a bulk of the season. He initially was injured in a Nov. 19 loss to the Miami Heat when he only played nine minutes before leaving.
Morris played after that but evetually sat out a Dec. 14 game vs. the Charlotte Hornets. They won without him just like they did in Brooklyn, but the Wizards will have difficulty overcoming Morris' absence against elite teams.
Seven of Morris' eight double-doubles have come since Jan. 8 which has been key to the hot streak that rocketed the Wizards from the bottom of the East into third place.
He had 24 points and 15 rebounds early in the season in a loss to the Chicago Bulls; 23 and 9 in a win over the L.A. Clippers; 20 and 10 in a win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks;1 7 and 13 in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers; 17 and 12 in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies; 19 and 11 in a win over the Boston Celtics; 21 and eight in beating the New Orleans Pelicans; and 24 and 10 in a rout of the N.Y. Knicks.
"I just had some fresh legs. Made some shots. John put me in great postion to make some plays," Morris said. "And Beal draws a lot of attention... I had the energy."