During an offseason full of turnover, Marcus Morris is one acquisition that has flown largely under the radar in the first month of the Celtics season. That changed quickly on Friday night with Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving all sidelined with injuries. The veteran power forward was quickly thrust into a vital role on both ends of the floor.
The 28-year-old was one of the few parts keeping the Celtics’ offense afloat in the first three quarters, finishing with 14 points in just 24 minutes on 5-of-10 shooting. He’s still on a minutes restriction as he continues his recovery from a sore knee that sidelined him for the first eight games of the season, but Brad Stevens made sure he had enough minutes left in him for crunch time and they certainly paid dividends.
Let’s start with this caveat. If the Celtics lost Friday’s game, Morris would have deservedly taken a large chunk of the blame for the late-game collapse. The hosts led the Hornets 86-82 with 54 seconds remaining when Jaylen Brown (13 rebounds) corralled a long offensive board and found a wide-open Morris at the top of the key.
The savvy move here would have been for the Celtics to milk some clock. It was a two-possession game with 54 seconds left, so unless you are Steph Curry, you are better off forcing the Hornets to foul or play defense for another 24 seconds than putting up a long jumper before you have to. Morris wasn’t on board with that mindset though and went for a dagger early. He bricked it and the Hornets came back down and scored quickly off the miss on a 3-point play, turning into a one-point game with roughly 30 seconds remaining. The entire sequence was the perfect example of why you don’t take that shot.
“I thought I was going to make it but I sat so damn long, I kind of lost my rhythm for a little bit,” Morris said of the questionable shot attempt. “The minutes' restriction is killing me because if I'm playing well and have a good rhythm, I have to come out. That's kind of killing me. I ended up making up for it so that's all that matters.”
Making up for what would be an understatement for what came next for Morris. The 6-foot-9 forward first bailed out his teammates on a subsequent halfcourt set that was blown up by Charlotte’s defense. With the hosts clinging to an 86-85 lead, Morris got the ball in a switch at the top of the key against Walker with no real secondary options. As the shot clock ticked down, he backed Walker down and used his height advantage to score bury what became the game-winning jumper.