Marcus Morris, who was studying in a film room to gain everything he then applied in Boston’s Game 1 win, did not mince words when asked why he was able to do what the Pacers and Raptors failed to accomplish against LeBron James.
“Them dudes can’t guard,” Morris said of players on the Pacers and Raptors. “That’s what I did pick up.”
Holding James to a 5-for-16 afternoon shooting in Game 1, Morris was his usual bullying self, pushing and bumping the 6-foot-8 James at every possible turn in search of any edge to be gained against the game’s best player. Matched up against James for 24 plays, Morris held No. 23 to 2-for-6 and five points in yet another chapter of their one-on-one showdowns.
But after the game, Morris did not seek the praise nor credit for what was a stifling effort from the Boston defense.
“It’s not just me,” Morris offered. “Everybody played their part in guarding [James]. He’s obviously the best player in the game, and you need multiple guys and a team to guard him an entire game. I just think we did a great job of that.”
According to The Washington Post, Morris studied for this showdown with Chuck Ellis, his personal trainer from Philadelphia, and that the two of them watched video of the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard play against James to further examine what they could do to limit James’ impact on the offensive side of the court.
“Morris is going to compete. He’s a tough guy. He’s going to play hard and compete,” Cavaliers coach Ty Lue said of the Morris vs. LeBron matchup. “But they did a lot of switching as well, so it wasn’t just Morris on him. I thought they did a good job of switching. When they got the mismatch in the post, they came from the baseline side and double-teamed him.
“[James] made the right play and the right pass; we just didn’t make shots.”
While their work against LeBron has just begun, and could come back to reality if LeBron responds like he has in prior situations in which he’s had a bad night, Morris and the Celtics admit that they’ve embraced the challenge in front of them.
“Our confidence level is very high,” said Morris. “At the end of the day, all the talking is done off the court. Once we step between them lines, we have to compete no matter who we have out there, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”