If you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk. Marcus Morris is checking both boxes so far.
After boasting he was the best player in the NBA (outside Kawhi Leonard) equipped to defend Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, the Boston Celtics forward is providing some compelling evidence.
Through two games of the Eastern Conference finals, both Celtics wins, Morris has limited James to 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting when guarding him, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
As the above graphic shows, LeBron has found success elsewhere: He dropped a 42-point triple double in Game 2 after scuffling in Game 1. So, what has Morris done specifically to slow down the greatest player on the planet? Simple: get physical with him.
“It’s an effect,” Morris told The Athletic’s Jay King on Thursday after Boston’s practice. “Me just leaning on LeBron for 15 seconds that possession, I think that helps. It’s me being physical, anybody being physical, I think that helps toward the entire game.
“You’ll look back at the first quarter (in Game 2) and, hey, he scored 21 or whatever it was. But then in the fourth quarter you look and, hey, he worked for every basket he got. You know what I mean? And that’s what we’re trying to do. Just limit the easy work. And then, s—, 40-something minutes a game — everybody’s human.”
Morris knows you can’t completely neutralize a player like James. But the strategy of wearing LeBron down physically appeared to work Tuesday night. While James scored 17 points in the second half, he wasn’t nearly the same dominant player he was in the first quarter and suffered some lapses on the defensive end, as well.
What also helps in defending a player of James’ stature is a healthy dose of confidence. It’s safe to say Morris has that box checked off, too.
“I didn’t really care what the reaction was,” Morris told King about his pre-series boast. “And I think that’s helped me the most. I don’t really care what nobody thinks. However you want to take it, it’s whatever. But none of them people that are taking and making memes or saying whatever, they’re not playing in the game.
“I’m the one playing. So I think if I can make a statement like that and back it up, then it is what it is.”