WALTHAM — Marcus Morris said he has listened to all of the prognosticators, heard all the predictions that the Celtics, severely shorthanded without two All-Stars, have little chance of advancing far in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
That annoys him, and he’s one of many Celtics to acknowledge they feel not only overlooked but disrespected in this first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks. There is motivation from Morris and his teammates to show the Celtics are still a formidable team without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Morris takes those perceived slights personally because he has long felt as if his skills and prowess have been overlooked. So his second postseason opportunity will be a chance to show he is a marquee player and the Celtics are a contender.
“I’m looking forward to proving everybody wrong,” he said. “Everybody is counting us out and that’s the main thing. This [is] about respect and I feel we’re not getting any respect. We’re going to have to take it.”
Morris has embraced his role as the team enforcer and tough guy. He wants to bring a grittier identity to the Celtics, especially during the time when the team will be challenged the most.
“I’m not with all the antics and all the talk,” he said. “You can’t count somebody out before the game starts. We’re the ones going on the court and playing, so all the chit-chatter is not relevant because no one has played a game yet. I’m going to go out there and continue to be me, continue to be a bulldog, help my team do whatever it takes to win. If we play the right way, I think we’ve got a great shot at beating them.”
This will be Morris’s second playoff appearance. He was with the Detroit Pistons two years ago when they were swept in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is looking forward to his first playoff game at TD Garden.
“The biggest difference is I am in Boston now and I talked with my brother [Markieff of the Washington Wizards] about playing here and he said it’s real,” Marcus Morris said. “He’s played in a lot of places and he said Boston is probably the loudest place he’s ever played during the playoffs, I’m looking forward [to] that.”
There will be great responsibility for Morris in this series. He, along with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, will emerge as the primary scorers without Irving and Hayward.
“Mainly I’m trying to use my toughness to change [the series],” he said. “I’ve been watching film on certain guys and probably getting matched up with [All-Star Giannis] Antetokounmpo or Jabari Parker, basically focus on how to defend those guys and watching them on the defensive end and where I can be effective.”
The Celtics only faced Parker, the No. 2 overall pick in 2014, once this season because he missed most of 2017-18 recovering from a second torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. In his return, Parker is averaging 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 31 games. In the Bucks’ 106-102 win over the Celtics on April 3, Parker came off the bench and scored 12 points with 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
“I think his ability to get downhill, his ability to drive the ball, he’s shooting it better, obviously,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Parker.
“They play him in some pick-and-rolls that are difficult to guard. He’s a great cutter on the baseline. He’s a great driver on the baseline and he’s a big-time scorer. He’s not your typical off the bench player. He could get 25 at any given game and you’ve got to be really alert to.”
The Bucks will also get back reserve point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who missed 30 games with a quadriceps injury before returning for the final two regular-season games. He has been especially effective against the Celtics in his short career.
“Now that they’re back in full, they’ve got a really talented group,” Stevens said. “When you think about guys like Parker and Brogdon coming off the bench.”
Stevens had nothing but compliments for the Bucks and their length.
“Very long, very athletic, they turn people over, they turned us over all year,” he said. “You have to take care of the ball because it all fits together because if they turn you over they are going the other way and they are scoring. They’re so good in transition anyway that if they get a runout or an advantage you don’t have a chance. They’re hard to score against. They’re hard to play against.”
The Bucks are first in the NBA in layups attempted, meaning they thrive on attacking the rim.