Markieff Morris Is Essential to the Wizards' Round 2 Success
On Sunday afternoon, the Boston Celtics defeated the Washington Wizards by a score of 123 to 111 in Game 1 of the NBA's Eastern Conference Semifinals. They outscored the Wizards 64-47 in the second half and finished the game with 19 three-pointers.
The first half was a narrative all its own.
Through one quarter, Washington led 38-24 on 61.5% shooting and 4 of 6 from three-point land. They also built a 14-to-5 advantage in the rebounding department.
In the second quarter, the Wizards got off to a slow start, but that was compounded by an injury blow with 7:18 left in the quarter. Up 45-42 with a 45.36% chance of winning, according to our algorithms, Wizards starting power forward Markieff Morris sprained his ankle and never returned.
As a result, the Celtics out-scored the Wizards 35-26 and out-rebounded them 12-11 with 6 boards coming from backup guard Terry Rozier.
Morris had played just over eight minutes in the first quarter and three more minutes leading up to his unfortunate departure in the second quarter -- not an entirely large sample size, but it is enough to prove his worth in the matchup.
Courtesy of NBA.com, here are Washington's splits with and without Morris and the difference between their efficiency levels.
|Wizards||Off Rating||Def Rating||Net Rating|
Despite a meager stat line -- 5 points (2 of 7 shooting) and 3 rebounds -- Morris' mere presence was very valuable. The area in which it was felt most was on the boards.
According to NBA.com, the Wizards' overall rebounding rate went from 66.7% with Morris to just 43.6% without him. On the defensive end alone, the difference (90.9% to 59.3%) was even greater sans Morris. Due to that, Morris helped lead the Wizards to 10 second-chance points to the Celtics' 2 in his 11-plus minutes on the floor.
After he was forced to the locker room, head coach Scott Brooks attempted to fill the void with Kelly Oubre and Bojan Bogdanovic at the three, sliding Otto Porter to the four alongside Marcin Gortat at center.
Offensively, the two most-used lineups held up, but on the defensive end, they were exploited in a big way.
|Lineup||Min||Off Rating||Def Rating||Net Rating|
|Wall, Beal, Oubre, Porter, Gortat||18||114.6||133.1||-18.5|
|Wall, Beal, Bogdanovic, Porter, Gortat||6||141.3||220.8||-79.5|
Meanwhile, the two lineups allowed total rebound percentages of 39.1% and 45.5%, respectively. And up against them, the Celtics -- a team usually plagued by poor rebounding -- secured 40.0% and 71.4% of all available offensive rebounds, leading to a Wizards deficit (16-8) in second-chance points.
What's lost in this is Gortat's value against the Celtics' small-ball lineups in Game 1. The big man's lack of versatility allowed Al Horford and the Celtics guards to get whatever shots they wanted off the pick-and-roll or any other play that created space, for that matter.
On the 18 field goals Boston attempted against Gortat, they made 12. That (66.7%) is 19.4% higher than the Celtics' season average of 47.3%. But, clearly Gortat struggled even more on the perimeter, where Boston shot 3-of-5 from three versus Gortat. The difference (21.4%) between that and the Celtics' season-average of 38.6% stems from plays like this one from Avery Bradley.
Avery Bradley, ladies and gentlemen! pic.twitter.com/LwIqkqFne7
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 30, 2017
So, if Morris plays -- like he plans to -- in Game 2 and going forward, the Wizards would likely benefit from him acting as a stretch five in certain situations, especially when the Celtics go small in the fourth.
No matter the situation, though, the more Morris the better for the Washington Wizards.