Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Marcus Morris, shuffled to a reserve role with Celtics coach Brad Stevens preferring the size of Aron Baynes to start the game, produced three consecutive makes, including a driving finger roll as Boston quickly rallied back in front. From there, Boston’s bench held the Sixers at arm’s length until Irving returned.
Morris, who has been eased back in after missing the start of the season due to knee soreness, playfully answered, “Next question” when asked if he preferred to be starting. But Morris has routinely noted his desire to be a starter and clearly he prefers that role.
Given the way Boston has struggled to generate consistent offense when Irving is not on the floor, Morris has increased value with the second unit. He showed why Thursday, scoring 13 of his 17 points in the second half. Morris missed four of his first five shots but connected on five of six after the intermission.
When the Boston Celtics acquired Marcus Morris via trade from Detroit, the thinking at the time was that he could provide some much-needed scoring punch off the bench.
Injuries have forced Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to at times insert him in the starting lineup.
But as we saw on Thursday, Morris’ value as a point-producer off the bench can’t be overlooked.
Because Morris’ scoring at the start of the fourth quarter would prove vital to Boston holding off a pesky Sixers team, 108-97.
NBC Sports Boston – Kyrie sets tone, Morris provides punch off bench in Celtics win over Sixers
Maybe Mook Morris would feel better about not starting if someone explained to him about the 6th-man role in Boston. Red Auerbach invented the concept, and Frank Ramsey and Kevin McHale both ended up in the Hall of Fame after making their marks coming off the bench.
No one is suggesting Morris is headed to Springfield, but last night’s performance was a strong argument in favor of him playing with the second unit. In 27 minutes, Morris scored 17 points on 6-11 shooting and 5-5 from the line. He added five rebounds and was +13. After the Cs blew a double-digit lead in the third quarter, Mook personally put them back in front by ringing up six straight points. They never trailed again.
Besides helping to secure the win, Mook’s performance off the bench was notable because of this:
Stevens has consistently started Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Horford, but switched back and forth between Baynes and Marcus Morris at the other position. Notably, the Celtics have struggled defensively when Morris plays with the starters, surrendering a lowly 117.8 points per 100 possessions with that unit. With a net rating of -15.5, that’s the only lineup of Boston’s 19 most-used combinations that has been outscored.
Now, would Morris ever start if Gordon Hayward was healthy? No. Will last night be a turning point for Morris to give up his starting role? Probably not; Brad is still likely to swap Morris and Baynes based on who produces the best match-up each night. And is Morris really even the team’s 6th-man? Nope, not as long as Marcus Smart is around. But if Morris can keep up this production on the nights when he’s not a starter, this team will be very difficult to beat.
More game coverage:
MassLive – Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris lead Boston Celtics past Philadelphia 76ers, 108-97 | Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics star, ‘spoils’ Brad Stevens with fourth-quarter heroics | Al Horford, Boston Celtics loaded up defensively on Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons: ‘He’s a great player’ | JJ Redick: Kyrie Irving obviously amazing, but Boston Celtics’ Al Horford doesn’t get enough credit | Kyrie Irving’s scoring, Jayson Tatum, more: 10 things we learned as Boston Celtics defeat Philadelphia 76ers
Providence Journal – At 19, Celtics’ Jayson Tatum is playing beyond his years
On Page 2: “Royalty”
It may have been a coach blowing a little smoke, but let’s all simply enjoy this quote from Philly’s head man.
Sixers coach Brett Brown suggested Boston is among current NBA powers.
“I mean, we’re playing against NBA royalty right now,” Brown said.
“You’re always learning from All-Stars, really. I look at this [Boston] team and you look at what Kyrie and Horford have done with bringing some of these young guys along and they’re NBA All-Stars for a reason. I think it’s a great learning experience for us. I think this building and this city has a real pulse. It’s got a vibe to the building, as unforgiving as Philadelphia is. You go on the road and play the league’s best team and there needs to be a level of poise and confidence among our group.”
“Royalty…the league’s best team…”
When the season began, this is what we hoped for – that Boston would be an elite squad. It’s happened, even without Hayward (thanks, Brad!). The Celtics are now 19-4, and continue to have the top record in the league. If this is a dream, don’t wake me.
And, finally: Red Sox + Celtics > Trail Blazers
During a brief back-and-forth yesterday on Twitter, Portland found out the hard way that Boston teams stick together.
The Rest of the Links: