As the Celtics approach their unofficial second half of the season, they are well rested, having played just one game over a nine-day span. Especially spry when their schedule resumes on Tuesday will be Marcus Morris.
Morris displayed his scoring prowess off the bench in the Celtics’ win over the Philadelphia 76ers last Thursday in London, scoring 19 points in 24 minutes. And when he scores in double figures this season, the Celtics have gone 10-3. But because of left knee issues, the 6-foot-9-inch swingman has played in just 22 of the team’s first 44 games. He underwent a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) shot in the knee a few weeks ago and will receive another in the coming weeks.
Morris said the key for the second half is feeling refreshed for a long playoff run. He played 2,856 minutes two years ago in Detroit and 2,565 last season. He has played 514 in his first year as a Celtic.
“I’m good, actually, but I haven’t really played like crazy, extensive minutes,” Morris said. “So my body still feels fresh, and I don’t have too much problems. It’s going to help a lot, especially for a guy like me and my knee. It will be really good.”
Morris has started in half of his 22 appearances this season. With Celtics coach Brad Stevens going with Aron Baynes as a starting center for a bigger lineup, Morris has blended in well with the reserves.
Coming off the bench has been an adjustment, Morris said, since he was a starter for most of the past few years with the Pistons.
“It’s hard as an NBA player not knowing when you’re going to start, not knowing when you’re going to play,” he said. “I’m just trying to get accustomed to it. My biggest thing has been not finishing games. I’ve been around the league awhile, and I like being out there in crunch time.
“I haven’t finished one in the first 40, so I am looking forward to finishing some games. As a coach, I think [Stevens] already has his plan, so I don’t want to disrupt that. Whatever he thinks it is, he’s going to go with.”
Praise from Thibodeau
Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said the key to Boston’s resurgence this season is defense. The Celtics have returned to playing stellar defense in their seven-game winning streak.
“The way the NBA is now, guys who can guard multiple positions that allow you to do some switching, I think that’s why Boston’s defense is so elite,” Thibodeau said last week. “You talk about a guy like Marcus Smart and what he contributes to the team, you can’t overlook that. [Terry] Rozier, significant. And then the versatility of Morris and [Jayson] Tatum, the switching they can do.”
Thibodeau also applauded Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge for putting together a complete roster filled with passionate players.
“When you’re doing your research, the love of the game is important,” Thibodeau said. “I think one’s ability to think on their feet is important. If you look at the players here, Danny does a great job with that. He prioritizes toughness. Toughness, passion, drive, the ability to think on your feet. Those are important qualities to have. It’s all part of your evaluation process, identifying who those guys are, because as everyone knows, it’s such a long season, 82 games.
“If you wanted to, you could probably find an excuse every night. The travel, back-to-back, early start, late start, four [games] in six [nights], whatever it might be. Some guys, they have that passion. No matter what the circumstances are, they’re going to rise above it and find a way to get it done. You get as many of those guys as you can find, I think, the better. You’re going to build your infrastructure with guys who are tough-minded and love the game. If a guy has a great passion, you’re never fighting him to come to the gym and to work and to prioritize the team and winning.”