When the Clippers traded for Marcus Morris Sr., the goal was to get one more switchable defender who was comfortable taking big shots from the perimeter. It didn’t hurt that Morris also brought a little extra toughness to an already physical group.
Morris checked all three boxes on Monday for the Clippers in their 118-110 win in Game 1 over the Dallas Mavericks. He played physical defense on Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis and chipped in five steals. He shot 8-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-6 on 3-pointers, for 19 points. He also helped bait Porzingis into his second technical foul during the third quarter, though he later said he wished Porzingis had been able to play. Single-game plus-minus is a fickle stat, but Morris’ +25 in his 32 minutes felt indicative of the impact he had on the game.
Doc Rivers said postgame if he had to single anyone out for their defensive performance, it would be Morris, who he called “phenomenal”. Rivers also said that Morris was patient on offense, perhaps moreso than any other player.
The Clippers got off to the best start possible in their playoff opener against the Mavericks. Patrick Beverley, in his first action in five games, stole the ball right out of Luka Doncic’s hands after the opening tip. He didn’t score on that possession, but Beverley was setting the tone for a swarming defensive effort early.
The Mavericks committed five turnovers within the first two minutes as LA quickly built a 10-0 lead, eventually stretching the advantage to 18-2 three and a half minutes into the game. Doncic was seeing multiple arms whenever he got the ball, and he had to head to the locker room early when he slipped on a wet spot.
Unfortunately, that defensive effort was short-lived. They got sloppy on defense and started fouling, and the Mavericks got comfortable at the free-throw line. An ill-timed Paul George technical gave Kristaps Porzingis a free shot, and as his three ball started falling, so too did the threes from his Dallas teammates. The Mavericks to hit 12 3-pointers in the first half and built a 14-point lead at one point.
Rivers lamented that the Clippers were undisciplined on defense. They didn’t communicate on their backside help and were slow to contest shooters on the 3-point line. Dallas scored 69 points in the first half, and their 41 points in the second half wasn’t so much good defense as it was Porzingis being out and the team reverting to 3-of-22 shooting from distance. Still, it was good to see the Clippers tighten up on the glass and foul less frequently as the game wore on.
Once they had the lead in the second half, the Clippers never relinquished it. Dallas may have the best offense in the league, but the Mavericks have struggled in clutch situations, and the veteran Clippers exploited those lapses. They hit the open man in the half court, fought harder for loose balls, and simply executed better. Morris’ three with two minutes to play was essentially the dagger, putting the team up seven, a fitting capper to his productive night.
Overall, the Clippers can’t be thrilled with the quality of their play, but they got the job done and take a 1-0 lead in the series.