The evening belonged to young Brandon Boston Jr., who spent the morning shootaround saying that he expected to be in this position — in the rotation at age 20 — and then putting on a nightcap that set the bar even higher.
But in the midst of the rookie’s wild swings, the Clippers needed the steadying presence of one of their veterans. For the past four games, that metronomic performance has come from Marcus Morris Sr.
It’s been a slow road back for Morris, who missed a month after struggling out of the gate for two games. He shot 41 percent on twos and 27 percent on threes in his first three games after returning, then sat out on a back-to-back against New Orleans and essentially no-showed another contest — along with the rest of the starting lineup — against Sacramento.
But since last week’s Laker game, which felt like Marcus exacting revenge on the Lakers for not re-signing his twin brother Markieff, the Clippers forward has been rejuvenated. He has hit exactly seven field goals in each of the last four contests, averaging 20 points per game in the process. He’s knocking down his threes at a high clip and serving as an offensive hub with his post-ups.
Against the Lakers, Morris hit the dagger three, a banker that put the Clippers up six with seven seconds to go. After that performance, Ty Lue said, “He looks good. He looks healthy. He’s saying that he feels great, so that’s a good sign for us. But yeah, he looks confident, more confident than ever. And, I mean, we need him. We need him to play big and he’s doing it, he played great tonight.”
Against the Celtics, the Clippers needed more from Morris. With no Paul George, more of the offense had to run through Morris, and his ability to operate in the post helped the Clippers slow down when the pressure from Boston sped them up. He came through again with another game-saving shot, hitting a three to give the Clippers a six-point lead with 44 seconds to play.
“We’re going through him, we’re playing through him a little bit more,” Lue said Wednesday. “We wanted to get the ball to Marcus, feature him a little bit more, and we’ve been going to him, and he’s made some huge shots down the stretch for us.”
Not every player can immediately assume more usage depending on who is or isn’t available. Ivica Zubac isn’t going to turn into a high-volume post player. Eric Bledsoe isn’t going to replicate Paul George’s spacing. Reggie Jackson can’t maintain the same efficiency with more of an offensive load. Nicolas Batum doesn’t even think to take that many shots.
But Morris is capable of adding more to his plate, and he can do it well. His brand of basketball doesn’t always fit in to what the Clippers are trying to run, but the coaching staff has always seen the value in slowing down for a couple of possessions at a time to get Morris comfortable, often right out timeouts, and they’re capitalizing on Morris being in rhythm now.
Brandon Boston is 20 years old. Who knows what his next three games will look like? With Marcus Morris, the Clippers know what to expect. After a slow start to the season, now they can expect a professional scorer coming up big when it counts.
More news for Thursday:
- Paul George was a late scratch against Boston after Ty Lue said something may have happened to George’s elbow against Portland. Whatever it was, George could barely dribble and took only two shots before halting his pregame workout Wednesday.
- NBA All-Star voting will open on Christmas Day and close on Saturday, Jan. 22.
- Louis Zatzman dives into the Clippers modernizing their offense.
- Fred VanVleet shared details about the group text Kawhi Leonard sent to the Raptors when he decided to leave for the Clippers.
- Maybe just re-read Mirjam Swanson’s feature on Brandon Boston Jr. from last week.