The Celtics needed an early lift, and Marcus Morris was the man for the job
A special guest joined Marcus Morris Sr. for his postgame press conference Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.
As Morris fielded questions about his 20-point performance against the Indiana Pacers, his 9-month old son — Marcus Morris Jr., affectionately known as “Benji” — sat atop his lap in a bite-sized No. 13 jersey.
The picture-perfect moment capped a successful Game 1 for the elder Morris, who scored 20 points in a postseason game for just the third time in his Celtics career. He also grabbed seven defensive rebounds en route to Boston’s 84-74 victory.
“I thought he did a really good job, and we needed him to,” coach Brad Stevens said after his team secured an early 1-0 series lead over the Pacers. “I thought he played really big and strong.”
The sellout crowd was amped-up for playoff basketball from tip-off, with each of Boston’s first three baskets receiving fervent cheers. But there was a gradual cooling off, as the Celtics managed to tally just 6 points in the first six minutes of play. During that span, Boston’s starters shot 3 for 7 from the field and turned the ball over four times.
After Pacers shooting guard Wesley Matthews drilled a 3-point shot to give Indiana a 14-6 lead, Stevens called a timeout and substituted Morris and forward Gordon Hayward into the game.
Morris, who was recently bumped from the starting lineup in favor of center Aron Baynes, almost singlehandedly kept the Celtics afloat by scoring 12 of their next 14 points. He nailed his first three attempts — a 24-foot 3-pointer, a pull-up mid-range jumper, and a 26-foot 3-pointer — in addition to drawing a foul on another 3-point shot attempt.
“He’s a very good 3-point shooter, we know that,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said. “Today, he did a really good job of being spaced and being able to knock down shots. We have to make our adjustments, come out of this game, and be ready to take him out next game.”
The 12 points in the opening 12 minutes marked Morris’s highest scoring output in any quarter this season. He also got to the free throw line a career playoff-high nine times, hitting seven.
“I just tried to enter the game and stay aggressive,” Morris said. “I got a couple of bigs guarding me, so I’m just trying to space the floor and read their closeouts [and] trying to let the game come to me. I’m just coming in trying to make an impact.”
While the points certainly benefited the Celtics, point guard Kyrie Irving thought Morris offered more than what was represented in the box score. He lauded his teammate for his ability to rejuvenate the team after its sluggish start.
“He just brought a really intense veteran mind-set, just being able to go out there and impact the game,” said Irving, who totaled 20 points in his first playoff game with the Celtics. “It’s not so much about scoring as it is about the attitude coming in and really just throwing himself into the game. I appreciated that. I think we all did.”
Stevens said he could tell Morris was probably going to have a good game, based on the team’s two most recent practices. In the days leading up to Sunday, Morris said he used his time to relax, reflect on the season, and “get right.”
None of it was spent dwelling on his reserve role, one that will likely stick for the remainder of the series as long as Baynes is healthy.
“At the end of the day I’m a hooper,” Morris said. “Either way, I’m here to help the team, whatever position they put me at, whether I’m starting or coming off [the bench.]”