BOSTON – A lingering left knee injury has brought great frustration upon Marcus Morris this season, but the veteran forward is pleased with the progress he’s been making of late.
Sunday night marked the first occasion that Morris was able to play in consecutive games since early December, and he showed no sign of discomfort during Boston’s New Year’s Eve tilt against the Brooklyn Nets.
The team was cautious with Morris’ playing time, as he was limited to less than 17 minutes of action; but that provided him enough time to cram in 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting that included a season-best 4-of-5 performance from 3-point range, as the Celtics edged the Nets, 108-105.
“With the minute restriction it’s hard to just sit back, so I have to be super aggressive with the time I get,” Morris explained after the game. “Shots were dropping for me tonight and my teammates did a great job of finding me.”
Morris has missed more than half of the season – 21 games to be exact – because of his knee injury. He missed an eight-game block at the beginning of the season, then played 16 of the team’s next 19 games, but re-aggravated the knee in early December, causing him to miss nine of the next 10 contests.
Morris was worried that he would miss a longer period of time, but he has worked diligently with the team’s training staff to strengthen the quad around his knee so that he could return to tip-top shape as soon as possible.
“Injuries happen,” said Morris. “I’m just grateful to continue to work through it. The staff has been nothing but great for me. I’m coming in every day and we’ve been working long hours to get my knee right, and it’s coming along good for me.”
“It’s actually a lot better than we all expected,” he added. “I practiced yesterday, and it was totally fine; I played today, and it was totally fine. It’s doing really, really well and I’m happy with the outcome.”
Morris’ 10-point, four-rebound effort against Houston Thursday night was his first productive outing since Dec. 2 when he scored 17 points against the Phoenix Suns. He was a little slow to get back into the swing of things, as he did not score at all during the first half against the Rockets, but he has since dropped 25 points during his last 26 minutes of play.
“He’s obviously got a good rhythm that he carried over from the second half the other day, and he did a lot of good things (tonight),” said C’s coach Brad Stevens, whose bench scored a total of 43 points against the Nets. “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. We need him to score the ball, and he did a great job tonight.”
Boston’s bench has had issues producing consistent offensive production this season, but when Morris is healthy he gives them a steady threat that can shoot from long range, post-up and score in isolation. He is averaging 18.1 points per 36 minutes this season, and the Celtics are 15-4 during the games that he has played.
“It’s a luxury having a talent like that – a high-level player that’s able to give us that lift off the bench,” said Kyrie Irving, who scored a game-high 28 points Sunday night. “He was a starter in Detroit for two years. I played him in the Playoffs as well and he’s a tough-nosed [guy], and that’s what we need. He gives us that energy offensively and defensively, and it’s just good to have him back in the lineup.”
Morris says he plans to have a low-key New Year’s Day with plenty of rest. He’ll then hit the gym Tuesday to practice with his teammates, before stepping back on the parquet floor Wednesday to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.