Brad Stevens may have found his go-to starting lineup.
The Celtics head coach insists he hasn’t decided on a fixed starting five for the regular season. Through the first 25 games, Stevens has made tweaks to the his frontcourt, swapping big men Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris on a night-to-night basis while the rest of the members of the starting lineup — Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum — remain intact.
The Celtics are at their best offensively when Baynes starts. Morris has found a role as the second unit’s most consistent scorer, and he’s someone the Celtics can rely on. Although he had a minute-restriction increased heading into Saturday’s game against the Suns, Stevens still elected to keep him in a reserves role and Morris flourished.
He chipped in 17 points for the second consecutive night on 6-of-14 shooting to go with eight rebounds in a 116-111 victory. And much like he did Thursday night against the Sixers, he led a significant run that ultimately changed the complexity of the game.
After falling behind by five points in the third quarter, the Celtics eventually put together a 17-2 run that bled into the final frame and Morris was responsible for 10 points. Then came the rest of the fourth quarter — where Irving did his thing, scoring six points in four minutes and led the Celtics to their fourth win in five tries.
He scored a team-high 19 points. Jaylen Brown bounced back from his funk (17 points) and Al Horford finished with a double-double (14 points, 11 assists).
Devin Booker didn’t come close to duplicating his historic career-high 70-point night from the last time he played at TD Garden, but he did score more than half. His 38 points pulled the Suns to within three when he drained one from deep with 18.2 seconds left. Booker then used his sixth and final foul on Irving, who sank a pair of free-throws to seal the win.
While Morris is capable of scoring in bunches, Baynes provides the kind of toughness the Celtics need to help create stops in the paint and finished with a game’s best plus-16 player rating. He helped the Celtics grab a nine-point lead after the game’s opening 12 minutes by creating defensive stops while scoring six points on 3-of-3 shots.
If Boston can get into the habit of getting off to quicker starts, Stevens would have the luxury of resting his starters in the fourth quarter — something he considers a priority for him and his coaching staff.
The Celtics shot over 50 percent (50.6) for the second straight game, something they struggled with throughout their start to the season.
Does Morris’ recent play have any influence on Stevens sticking with the same starting lineup moving forward?
“[Not] doesn’t really,” Stevens said. “Starting or when they play doesn’t really matter. So he’s still going to start when we feel like the matchup is right. And the good news is that you’re not as quick to pull him because of the minutes restriction as it’s been lifted or increased. You know, having 20-30 [minutes] is much different than 20-22 when you’re trying to manage a four-quarter game.
“I mean there are some teams you just can’t start big against and some teams that it’s hard to start small against. So it’s good that everybody is able to play well through that.”
We’ll have to wait and see which lineup Stevens chooses Monday night when the C’s welcome Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden.C
Full article @ Celtics 116, Suns 111: Marcus Morris emerging as weapon off bench for Brad Stevens
Source: GreenStreet Blog