LONDON — The Celtics have had very few skirmishes with opponents this season, even mild ones. At the start of the year Marcus Morris vowed to be the team’s enforcer, but some of those powers were sapped when he missed 22 games with a sore knee.
In the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 114-103 win over the 76ers, though, Morris was in the middle of a slight dust-up.
With just less than five minutes left, 76ers rookie Ben Simmons sent Morris to the ground with a forearm. Morris immediately jumped back up and shoved Simmons with two hands.
Simmons was called for a foul on the play, and then after a video review Morris was whistled for a technical foul.
Morris said he thought the fact that Philadelphia’s 22-point lead had turned into a 15-point deficit factored into Simmons’s play. But he wasn’t really bothered by it.
“A little frustration kicked in,” Morris said. ‘I think he took a little cheap shot, but it’s all right. I take a lot of cheap shots, too. It’s good that Philly’s got some OK guys, some tougher guys. But I promise you that won’t happen again. But it’s a good shot. It is what it is. Hopefully I don’t have to get fined for that. That’s what I’m really worried about.”
The rest of the game was played without incident.
Hard work, not fate
In the 2007-08 season, the Celtics won a preseason game in London against the Timberwolves, and then went on to win the NBA title that season. Thursday’s game was their first here since then, and afterward point guard Kyrie Irving was asked if his team might be able to now follow a similar path as that championship team did.
But Irving, understandably, was in no mood to make comparisons, particularly not based on two teams playing one game in the same European city.
“It’s always great to believe in fate, but for us we have to be dialed into every moment we’re afforded,” Irving said. “It’s a long season still ahead. We’re a little past the halfway point. It’s great for that to happen for the past team, but it’s the past, and we have to be very present. And winning an NBA championship is one the hardest things you could ever do in your life from a professional standpoint.”
Finding the best
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league will continue to look at whether to restructure the playoff format, potentially putting the top 16 teams in the postseason rather than the top eight from each conference. But he said that no change is imminent.
Silver said that some of the public discussion is about the ninth-place team in one conference being left out with a better record than the eighth-place team in the other. But he said his greater concern is seeding.
“To me, the bigger issue is once you have the top 16 teams, does it make sense to seed them West versus East, or should you be doing 1 through 16, so truly the two best teams meet each other in The Finals?” Silver said.
He said he is not yet convinced that would be the proper move, especially because of the travel issues it could cause.
“But ultimately, the league is about the competition,” Silver said. “We play a long regular season building up to the playoffs, and I think from a fan standpoint, you want to see the very best teams meeting at the end of the season. For that reason, it’s something we’re going to continue to look at.”