A healthy Morris helps carry Celtics' scoring load


BOSTON - When the Celtics acquired Marcus Morris, they knew they were adding a player with the reputation of being a good defender who could also get you a bucket or two every now and then.

While his defense has been pretty good, Morris scoring has been the real eye-opener to his game.

Slowed early on by a sore left knee, Morris' minutes have been restriction-free for a couple of weeks.

In that time, he has delivered consistent scoring that sets him apart from any of his teammates not named Kyrie Irving.

With Irving out tonight against the Knicks with a right quad contusion, Morris and the other Celtics will have to pick up the scoring slack.

Morris comes in having scored in double figures in the past eight games, something only Irving has done in that span among the Celtics.

In the past eight games, he has averaged 13.9 points off the bench while shooting 44 percent from the field and 34.1 percent on 3’s along with six rebounds.

Being in better health has certainly helped Morris’ game.

And he says not worrying about his minutes being limited, has also been beneficial.

“Now, I just go out and play,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I don’t worry or think about anything but helping the team by just playing, and not thinking about, I gotta do this in this amount of minutes or anything like that.”

One of the keys to New York’s win over Boston last month was how the Celtics didn’t have an answer for Michael Beasley, a player Morris would have likely been defending if he were healthy enough to play at that time.

But Morris isn’t one to spend much time dwelling on what happened.

He’s locked into the now.

“I just want to win, man,” he said. “That’s what it has to be about for me and the rest of my teammates. What can I do to help us win?”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks.

It has been relatively quiet on the Celtics front when it comes to possible trades. The one name that’s making the rounds more than any other, is Memphis; Tyreke Evans. The former rookie of the year has arguably been Memphis’ best player this season. The Grizzlies know Evans is a sought-after talent by a number of teams looking to add a multi-positional perimeter player like Evans. With him earning just $3.29 million, the Grizzlies would be looking for a young player as well as a first-round pick in return. Boston has the assets and picks to get a deal done, but the Celtics may hold out and see what the buyout market looks like. A report out of Philadelphia has the Sixers, Celtics and Cavaliers. among several teams who have contacted Memphis about Evans. 

The Knicks have gotten good production from the 29-year-old who is averaging 12.8 points per game. While this is Kristaps Porzingis’ team, it was Beasley getting ìM-V-P!î chants when these two met at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21 when Beasley dropped a season-high 32 points on the Celtics. Avoiding a repeat performance will be key for the Celtics.

The Knicks certainly haven’t won as much as they would have liked to this season, but the problem hasn’t been due to a lack of knocking down shots. New York has shot 47.1 percent from the field this season which ranks seventh in the NBA. Conversely, Boston has allowed opponents to shoot a league-low 43.3 percent from the field.

One of the main reasons why Boston’s defense has been so good this season is because the guys who log the most minutes are their best defenders. Looking at players this season that average more than 30 minutes played per game, the Celtics take up the top four spots in defensive rating. Leading the list is Marcus Smart (98.9) followed by Jaylen Brown (99.3), Jayson Tatum (99.4) and Al Horford (100.1).

The Celtics have been talking up their play of late as being closer to where they want to be when all is said and done. As we know, this Celtics team digs the long ball. And if you look back on the past three games, no team has gotten more mileage out of it than the Celtics. In the last three games, they have averaged 15.0 made 3’s per game, which is tops among teams over that span of time. They are also shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range in the past three games, which ranks fifth in the league in that span. 

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