WALTHAM — If nothing else, you have to like Marcus Morris’ confidence.
Sure, the Celtics forward didn’t exactly shut down LeBron James when going up against the NBA’s best player when matched up this season — giving up 24 points on 8-for-16 and just one turnover in 55 head-to-head matchups according to Second Spectrum and ESPN.com. It’s a reality that you wouldn’t suspect after listening to Morris after practice Saturday afternoon.
“Personally, I think I’m probably the best guy defending him in the league, outside of Kawhi [Leonard],” he said.
Perhaps Morris was reflecting on some of first words he heard from Danny Ainge upon joining the Celtics.
“That’s one of the things [Ainge] said when I first got here, that I was one of the guys they felt as though could guard LeBron,” he said. “So they really wanted me here, and not only because of that, just the toughness and things like that. But that was definitely one of the major points that he brought up when getting me here.”
Well, he’s going to get another chance to prove all of it, starting Sunday afternoon.
The guess is Morris is going to be one of a few different Celtics to take a crack at James. That’s usually how it works. Last postseason, Jaylen Brown gave it a whirl, and probably will this time, as well. Maybe Marcus Smart gets his chance. The truth of the matter — which the C’s understand — is that James will get his. He did against Toronto and Indiana, shooting 55 percent from the floor and averaging 34 points per game in each series.
The difference is how hard they make James, and his teammates, work for it. The Pacers? They made life rough on the Cavs for second games, as was evident in the nearly four turnovers a game James totaled. The four games against Toronto that average was cut in half.
“I think in the Toronto series, no disrespect to them, but watching film, it just looked very easy at times,” Morris said. “[James] looked very confident. He was getting to different places on the court. And there was no help. I didn’t see no physicality, I didn’t see any of that. I think that’s something different that we will bring to the table.”
As much optimism as Morris and the Celtics carrying into Sunday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the shadow of the teams’ last meeting — a 121-99 Cavs blowout win on Feb. 11 — still looms. That was with Kyrie Irving still around, and after Cleveland turned their roster inside-out at the trade deadline. After Cleveland outscored Boston, 66-44, in the second and third quarters, everything about that one was anti-climatic
There was also the season opener, when the Celtics put up a fight after Gordon Hayward’s broken ankle but could never quite recover from the shock of the moment. And in between, the Celtics did claim a convincing, 102-88 win over the Cavs three days into the new year.
All of what happened (and what was said) before — from both the Celtics and Morris — might not matter at all. That’s what we’ll find out in the coming days.
“I think anytime you play in the playoffs you play against great players, but everybody is a little bit different. Giannis [Antetokounmpo], his ability to get in transition, lay it in in four steps the length of the court is ridiculous. The force at which he drives is like LeBron. The difference is that LeBron is shooting right now at a ridiculous rate on long twos and on threes,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Guys like [Joel] Embiid and [Ben] Simmons present unique challenges. Everybody is a little bit different, but LeBron is considered the best for a reason because he does all of that stuff.
“There are going to be a number of guys who are going to get the responsibility fo guarding him, but, again, Love had an incredible series against Toronto. J.R. Smith started really going in that season. We all know what those guys can do. George Hill got healthy and made a big impact. They have so many guys who are good players that we have to be alert not only to that LeBron matchup but everybody else.”
Full article @ Marcus Morris is already talking a good game when it comes to guarding LeBron James
Source: GreenStreet Blog