Marcus Morris put everyone on notice on Saturday night in wake of the ugliest home loss in the Brad Stevens era, a 28-point blown lead after the Celtics scored a season-high 74 points in the first half. There were plenty of contributing factors to the defeat (Kyrie Irving’s injury, the Clippers shooting the lights out) but none of these should serve as excuses for the worst blown lead at the TD Garden in 16 years against a team that had five new players making their debuts after the trade deadline. The Celtics are 6-0 without Irving this year at the Garden and had a 21-point headstart on the Clippers once he suffered his knee sprain.
In the wake of such an alarming defeat and pointed comments from Morris, it felt necessary to do an autopsy on the second half last night. Were things as bad as Morris made them out to be? Which players might he have been targeting specifically? And was he the right guy to be sending this message in the wake of his own performance? Let’s sort through the mess to figure out just how big of a bump in the road this loss was on a team that has been struggling to match high expectations for the first 56 games of the year. A power ranking of the C's second-half issues:
5. A lack of hustle (featuring Marcus Morris): There was no mistake about who the more motivated team was in the second half. The Clippers were the ones making the extra effort, pushing the ball off of any missed basket, hustling to make an extra rotation on defense and scrapping for loose balls. The Celtics did not fight fire with fire on this front. In fact, the man lighting up his teammates was one of the players that could have been playing with a better effort at times.
One example comes early in the third quarter, when Morris misses an open 3 here at the top of the key. He holds his followthrough and moves into a home run trot to get back up the floor. Meanwhile, Morris’ defender (Danilo Gallinari) is sprinting up the court after a contest to get himself in position for a bucket. By the time Morris figures this out, it’s too late. He gets hit with the full court pass and gets an easy two. Al Horford (who was brutal on both ends Saturday) didn’t have the speed to get back either but Morris has to have better awareness here and get his butt in gear.
Another example comes midway through the third quarter. Morris is providing help-side support in the paint off his man Patrick Beverley on the wing. The kickout eventually comes to Morris and his closeout attempt is pitiful. He runs full speed with his hands down, giving himself no chance to put on the brakes or contest a drive. Beverley flies past him and knocks down an uncontested runner.
These plays were scattered throughout the night for Boston’s defense among several members of the roster. While the Celtics did deserve to get lit up in some form, Morris may not have been the best messenger given his own effort on Saturday night.
4. Jayson Tatum thinking he had a mismatch with Patrick Beverley: