Morris' minutes restricted, but his impact isn't

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BOSTON – The 2017 calendar ends with a victory for the Celtics, fueled by a much-maligned bench that’s starting to show some semblance of an identity.

And a big part of that identity will be the play of Marcus Morris, who, when healthy, is a major player for the Celtics, as was the case on New Year’s Eve when his play proved vital to a closer-than-expected 108-105 win over Brooklyn.

Morris, playing in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly a month after being limited by left knee soreness, had 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting, which included him knocking down four of his five, 3-point attempts.

“We’re a team that has a lot of players that can play,” said teammate Terry Rozier. “You never know who’s going to give you a boost off the bench, and tonight it was Marcus Morris.  He lifted us a lot.”

It was the kind of performance that piggybacks off a strong second half showing he had in Boston’s 99-98 win over Houston.

“He’s obviously got a good rhythm that he carried over from the second half the other day, and did a lot of good things,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He’s really important and, you know, we’re still managing minutes and will be for a while, but he’s a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish. And we need him to score the ball, and he did a great job tonight.”

Morris has missed more games (21) than he has played in (19) this season, so his rhythm is very much a work in progress.

But the more he plays, the closer he feels to getting back to being the two-way player that Boston felt they were getting when they traded fan favorite Avery Bradley to Detroit for Morris in July.

“I made shots, open shots [against Brooklyn],” said Morris who is playing with a minutes restriction of around 16 or so. “With the minutes restriction, it’s hard to just sit back so I have to be super-aggressive with the time I get.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds in the Celtics win over the Nets.

STARS
Kyrie Irving
We’ve seen better out of Irving, but Sunday’s performance was pretty darn good. He led the Celtics with 28 points on 10-for-21 shooting to go with seven rebounds and eight assists in addition to one blocked shot.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
On a team that’s full of high-energy players, Hollis-Jefferson stood out for his impact both as a scorer and rebounder on Sunday. He finished with a team-high 22 points on 10-for-21 shooting to go with a game-high 12 rebounds with a blocked shot.

STUDS
Marcus Morris
We’ve seen what a relatively healthy Morris means to this team. He came off the bench and made the most of his limited minutes, scoring 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting in just under 17 minutes (16:57).

Terry Rozier
He plays more minutes than any reserve in the NBA this season, so the success of the team’s bench can’t help but be tied to his play. Rozier had 14 points for his fourth straight double-digit scoring game, a first for the third-year guard.

Caris LeVert
LeVert was filling up the stat sheet in several categories, finishing with 16 points along with six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

DUDS
Tyler Zelle
He was one of Boston’s best at running the floor and finishing in transition, but we never saw that side of Zeller. And because of that, his impact was minimal at best. He had three points while on 1-for-6 shooting with just one rebound and one assist.

Jayson Tatum
This was one of the few games we’ve seen from Tatum in which his defense, for the most part, wasn’t very good. He got better as the game wore on, which was encouraging. And he didn’t have the benefit of impressive shooting to help balance out his defensive struggles. He had nine points but missed five of his seven shots with four turnovers and not a single assist to his name.

Celtics turnovers
Boston turned the ball over 10 times in the first half for 13 points which were a major factor in the Celtics’ inability to have the kind of separation in the first half that they were looking for. As the game wore on, Boston did get better as the Celtics turned it over just seven times in the second half while rendering four points to the Nets.
 

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