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Posts tagged with Lebron James

Marcus Morris and Celtics ‘gooning’ their way to 2-0 lead in East finals

Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, left, during the second half in Game 2 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, left, during the second half in Game 2 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Marcus Morris learned a new word following his team’s Tuesday victory over perennial Eastern Conference champion LeBron James and Cleveland.

After a physical Game 2 in the conference finals, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue described how Boston took a 2-0 lead.

“I think they're playing tougher than we are. We see that,” Lue said. “They're being physical. They're gooning the game up, and we've got to do the same thing. We've got to be tougher, mentally and physically.”

When media members presented Lue’s assessment to the Celtic who exudes his tough guy persona constantly on the court, Morris liked what he heard.

“Gooning? That’s a good word,” Morris told the Boston Herald. “(Expletive), we’re doing what it takes. Whatever it takes, every player 1-15, whatever it takes, that’s what we’re doing. You call it what you want to call it. We’re just trying to get the win.”

While Morris didn’t replicate his double-double production from Game 1 versus Cleveland, the former Kansas standout played a key role in a playoff victory yet again, contributing 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Boston trailed by 7 at halftime before making a critical run in the third quarter. Morris came through with some timely plays during the push, including a 3-pointer that cut the Cavs’ lead to 2 less than four minutes into the second half and a crowd-igniting and-1 that tied the game at 69.

The seventh-year forward attacked Tristan Thompson off the dribble, and after drawing a foul that sent both bigs tumbling onto the baseline out of bounds, Morris roared in Thompson’s face while flexing.

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The sequence quickly became a meme on NBA Twitter, but more importantly for the Celtics, it seemed to fuel the rest of the quarter, as the home team out-scored the three-time defending East champs by 14 in the third, paving the way for a 107-94 win.

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As expected, the Celtics weren’t able to relatively shut down James in Game 2 after Morris and his “gooning” band of long, strong wings held the league’s brightest superstar to 15 points in Game 1. James torched Boston for 21 first-quarter points Tuesday and finished with 42.

However, Morris once again held his own when defending James. A change in Cleveland’s starting lineup meant Morris didn’t draw the assignment as often in the second go-round. Still, the numbers showed afterward that Morris’ defense impacted James’ effectiveness. Per ESPN, James scored 6 points on 2-for-8 shooting with 2 turnovers when guarded by Morris.

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Now a Boston team without its two best players, injured Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, needs just two more victories to reach The Finals. But Game 3 in Cleveland isn’t until Saturday, and James has plenty of time to figure out ways to better carve up the Celtics’ defense.

Morris described his group as “very confident” at this juncture of the series.

“But we’re gonna stay humble, man,” he added. “The work is not done. We up 2-0. But we done seen crazier things happen. The goal is to go to Cleveland and at least steal one and come back and play in front of these great fans.”

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Marcus Morris helps Celtics curb LeBron James — at least for 1 game

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, fights for position against Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) during the third quarter of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference Finals, Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, fights for position against Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) during the third quarter of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference Finals, Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The mere concept of successfully defending otherworldly NBA superstar LeBron James borders on laughable.

So plenty around The Association likely recalled their favorite eye-roll meme or GIF when Marcus Morris stated his belief leading up to Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals series with Cleveland that he’s “probably the best guy defending (James) in the league, outside of Kawhi (Leonard.)”

Prior to this postseason, Morris had experienced exactly four NBA playoff games since leaving Kansas for the pros in 2011. Tactfully, Morris at least made it clear while discussing his matchup with the four-time league MVP, aka “King James,” that it would take a full team effort to try and defend “the best player in this game.”

Surprisingly, at least in the aftermath of Game 1, Morris’ predictive assessment didn’t look completely insane. He started for the first time this postseason specifically to match up with James, and the Celtics took a 1-0 lead as the man who has played in seven straight NBA Finals registered personal 2018 postseason lows with 15 points, 31.3% shooting and 7 turnovers.

Morris, meanwhile, delivered a double-double performance (21 points, 10 rebounds). He was asked during Sunday’s post-game press conference why James doesn’t intimidate him.

“It's a team effort, man,” Morris replied. “It's not just me. Everybody played their part in guarding him. 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.”

While that appraisal seems dead on, ESPN’s Chris Forsberg shared some interesting advanced data on Morris vs. LeBron, via Second Spectrum. Morris defended James 39 times — the most of any defender — during Boston’s 108-83 win. The Cavs averaged 89.7 points per 100 possessions when Morris defended James, compared to Cleveland’s postseason average of 108 points per 100 possessions.

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Morris said he looked forward to guarding James because of his competitive nature, and that “I’m going to be able to tell my kids this one day.” But the seventh-year forward didn’t necessarily notice a change in James’ approach because of the way he and Boston went about defending one of the game’s all-time greats.

While James didn’t dominate inside the way one might assume, his ability to attack the paint was hindered somewhat by the Cavs’ poor 3-point shooting (4 of 26). Obviously, Boston coach Brad Stevens wasn’t about to anoint Morris and his teammates as LeBron-stoppers.

“I thought by committee everybody worked hard. You just have to keep making it as hard as possible on LeBron. Easier said than done,” Stevens added. “He's obviously not going to have many games like that. Their shooters around him won't have many games like that. But I thought our guys were locked in.”

Al Horford credited Morris for embracing the impossible mission of checking James.

“Marcus is one of our leaders, and he's been a presence since the first day he got here,” Horford said of his 6-foot-9 teammate, still in his first season with Boston. “So I think that taking on this challenge is something that we expect out of him. We have his back out there. Like he said, we're doing it as a unit. It's not all on him. But you do have to give him credit for his focus and his commitment for the team.”

Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) makes a dribble move against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference Finals, Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) makes a dribble move against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference Finals, Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Could Morris be the man who keeps James from reaching his eighth straight NBA Finals? Probably not. I mean, why would anyone even ask that question or type it out?

The King, likely waiting to unleash countless retaliatory plays the remainder of the series, complimented his adversary following the Cavs’ loss.

“I thought they had great game plan Game 1. He was the start of it. He was my matchup, and I think they did a great job of communicating throughout the whole game, knowing where I was and knowing where our teammates was,” James said. “Brad and the coaching staff did a great job in Game 1. You commend that. We have an opportunity to look at a lot of film (Monday), and see ways they were making us uncomfortable, making myself off balance and not have a rhythm all game. So we'll be much better in Game 2.”

James added the first game of any series always doubles as a “feel-out game” for him, so he will adjust to the Celtics’ defense accordingly.

Translation: Morris might require the aid of all the leprechauns in TD Garden to get out of another game this series relatively unscathed by LeBron.

Reply 2 comments from Marius7782 Ronfranklin

LeBron James credits old rival Paul Pierce with shaping his career

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Years from now, when basketball fans who have yet to be born learn of LeBron James or Paul Pierce by watching hologram highlight clips of their Hall-of-Fame careers, one small forward will inevitably be linked with the other.

The rivalry between Pierce and James took off in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Ever since, their one-on-one battles have been a prominent storyline each time their two teams meet.

When Pierce, a 17-year veteran from Kansas, hinted at retiring upon Washington’s elimination from the playoffs this past week, Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes asked James about his old antagonist and their showdowns through the years.

Still in the hunt for this season’s championship with the Cavaliers, James told Cleveland.com Pierce actually helped shape his career.

"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time," James said. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

Playing with the Celtics and Nets, Pierce has faced James’ Cavaliers and Heat in five postseason series. “The Truth” prevailed in both 2008 and 2010, before James went to Miami and won titles in 2012 and 2013.

Now a four-time NBA MVP, James went toe-to-toe with Pierce in a second-round series in 2008 that featured a remarkable Game 7. James put up 45 points, but Pierce scored 41 and the Celtics won in Boston, on their way to an eventual championship.

In 2010, James played what many assumed would be his last game in a Cleveland uniform against Pierce’s Celtics. Cleveland lost in the second round to Boston before James headed south to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Once the Heat formed its own “Big Three” to counter Boston’s combination of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the playoff showdowns started going James’ way. LeBron and company ended Pierce’s season in 2011, 2012 and 2014 (when Pierce and Garnett played in Brooklyn).

The adversaries could have met again in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning this week, but Pierce’s Wizards couldn’t extend their postseason lives past Game 6 vs. Atlanta — a series that ended with an overtime-forcing 3-pointer from Pierce getting waved off upon further review.

"[When] I first saw it and when he got the ball, I knew it was going in," James told Cleveland.com. "I just know how clutch Double-P is. I knew it was going in, but I didn't know if he got it off in time just because he had to make that extra move to get back behind the three-point line after [Kyle] Korver kind of stepped in front of him."

James, who has a 17-20 record vs. his rival in the regular season and a 17-13 record in the playoffs, knows first-hand what Pierce can do with the game on the line. In the 2012 East Finals, Pierce buried a clutch 3 to put Miami in a 3-2 series hole.

No one knows at this point whether the two adversaries will get another playoff showdown in 2016 to cap the old rivalry.

"I've been competing against him my whole career and our battles that we've had, our differences that we've had,” James told Cleveland.com. “But you know one thing about it, when you face him; you're going to always compete. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do."

Visit basketball-reference.com for a detailed look at each head-to-head meeting between Pierce and James.

REGULAR SEASON


PLAYOFFS


Check out Boston.com’s Top 5 Pierce vs. James moments


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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LeBron James’ review of Andrew Wiggins: ‘He’s a great talent’

Minnesota Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins (22) is fouled by Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, in Cleveland. Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 27 points, but the Cavaliers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Minnesota Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins (22) is fouled by Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, in Cleveland. Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 27 points, but the Cavaliers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

When he wants to, Andrew Wiggins can play with an edge.

In a three-game slump (6.3 points per game, 7-for-27 shooting) heading into the rookie’s very first meeting with the team that drafted him, Cleveland, and superstar LeBron James, the Kansas product indeed looked motivated to show the Cavaliers they should have kept him around — or at the very least remind them of what they’re missing.

Wiggins outscored LeBron, 27-24, (but not Kyrie Irving, who added 29 for Cleveland) and the leading candidate for rookie of the year made another highlight reel to add to his résumé by hitting 9 of 16 from the floor.

Though his Timberwolve (5-22) still had no chance at Cleveland (17-10), Wiggins Vined the Cavs’ defense on one possession with a jam that must have had Cavs fans wondering — maybe just momentarily — how the 19-year-old Canadian would look in wine and gold.

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Showing more professionalism that bitterness or envy, Wiggins said in a column by The News Herald’s Jim Ingraham he isn’t holding any grudges toward Cleveland — a place he said earlier this week he called home for “like three days.”

“I’m being put in a bigger position, a bigger role (with Minnesota) than I would’ve been on that team,” Wiggins said. “That’s helping me grow more mentally and physically.”

Like Kobe Bryant earlier this month, the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda reported, James had a glowing review of Wiggins, a potential future star in The Association.

“He’s a great talent,” James said. “We all knew that for sure. He’s very poised and very efficient. They got a good piece.”

After the 125-104 loss, the Timberwolves’ sixth in a row, Wiggins reiterated the matchup with Cleveland, who picked him No. 1 overall in June, then moved him in a trade to land Kevin Love, provided added inspiration.

“I’m a competitor so it’s fun for me,” he told the Star Tribune. “I’m sure it’s fun for him (James) and fun for fans to see. He’s one of the best players in the league, so I think I learned a lot. He can score in a lot of different ways and impact the game a lot of different ways.”


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Andrew Wiggins to face Cavs, LeBron

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) moves the ball on a breakaway against Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) moves the ball on a breakaway against Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

We’ve already heard an NBA legend by the name of Kobe Bryant sees some similarities between a younger version of himself and rookie Andrew Wiggins.

So perhaps we should’ve seen more comparisons for the one-and-done Kansas product coming.

Do we really need a detailed breakdown to determine whether Wiggins is better right now than LeBron James was when he was a rookie?

Absolutely not.

YOUNG LeBRON VS. YOUNG WIGGINS PPG RPG APG TOPG FG% 3-PT% FT%
LeBron James at 19
(2003-04: rookie season, 79 games)
20.9 5.5 5.9 3.5 .417 .290 .754
Andrew Wiggins at 19
(2014-15: rookie season, through 26 games)
12.0 4.0 1.3 2.0 .385 .364 .702

However, the power of the Internet and the folks at ESPN.com have provided just that. David Thorpe gives in-depth analysis of the future Hall of Famer, James, as a 19-year-old, and the future who-knows-exactly-what-he’ll-turn-out-to-be, Wiggins, on ESPN Insider.

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Obviously, as Thorpe details, Wiggins isn’t as powerful as James was back in the 2002-03 season, nor does the Minnesota rookie possess LeBron’s ball-handling and distributing skills.

The breakdown did give Wiggins the advantage defensively, and as a shooter, though — which serves as a nice reminder that, despite what we heard when he was in high school, the young Canadian simply projects as a different type of player than the guy who is better at basketball than anyone else on the planet. And that’s OK.

There at least is a method to this maddening exercise. Wiggins and James will play against each other for the first time Tuesday night — 6 p.m., NBATV.

Not only does this give Wiggins a chance to go up against LeBron, it also allows the No. 1 overall pick to face the team that drafted him and traded him away before the season began.

As Wiggins said in a piece for Timberwolves.com, facing Cleveland should motivate him — “I think that’s obvious,” he added.

Since scoring 16 points against the L.A. Lakers and drawing Kobe’s praises, Wiggins hasn’t broken the 10-point barrier in three straight games, scoring 9 at Washington, 5 at Boston and 5 again vs. Indiana.

We’ll see how he responds for this one, with far more observers anticipating the matchup and waiting to make more comparisons.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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