Marcus Morris on Lebron James may be critical for Celtics to advance in playoffs
Whatever scheme Brad Stevens comes up with to slow down Lebron James, one thing is for sure. Marcus Morris will be trying to contain The King at times during the game.
When Danny Ainge traded for Mook Morris, we heard how effective he had been in the past defending LeBron James. Well, guess what? The Celtics are in the Eastern Finals against the Cavaliers, and we are about to witness some Mook-versus-Lebron action up close.
Morris' offense in this season's playoffs has not been exactly stellar. He is averaging 12.3 points/game on only 35% from the field, while dishing out a bit over one assist per game. His boarding has been solid with 5.0 RPG.
Marcus' defensive rating for the playoffs this year puts him 74th-of-209 players, top 35%. Not bad at all. And history does support the notion that Morris can be very effective attempting to contain James. Here is some of that history (per Boston.Com's Taylor Snow):
During his last 11 regular season and playoff games against a Morris team, James has averaged 21.1 points per game while shooting just 16.3 percent from 3-point range. Even more remarkable is the fact that James did not reach 30 points during any of those matchups, which is a feat he seemingly accomplishes every game nowadays.
Could it simply be a coincidence? The numbers suggest otherwise.
Two seasons ago, Morris was statistically the top defender of James in the entire NBA, according to Bleacher Report’s Tom Haberstroh. The veteran forward allowed just 20.5 points per 100 possessions when defending James that season, which was far below James’ average of 36.5 points per 100 possessions.
Morris’ success against James continued into the 2016 postseason, as he helped the Detroit Pistons limit the All-NBA forward to just 22.8 PPG during the first round – his lowest scoring average in a series since the 2011 NBA Finals.
"My size," Marcus Morris tells me is the greatest tool he has in his matchup against James. "I’m 6-9, 240. I think that’s the perfect size to guard a guy like that, who's probably 6-9, 260. Having the height, the length and the power, too, that all helps." https://t.co/ajQR7pQppT
Morris certainly has the size and strength to cover Lebron, and if he can dedicate himself to that task while focusing less on scoring, he may see increased minutes beyond the 28.6 MPG thus far in the playoffs. We know that at least several Celtics will get the assignment against James, but any Celtic that finds himself as the Lebron-defensive-matchup-of-the-moment most likely needs to focus totally on the task at hand, which is to try to contain the almost-uncontainable Lebron James. If Mook can do that, the Celtics chances of advancing to the NBA Finals suddenly get much better.