Marcus Morris

Knicks reportedly also eyeing Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier from Celtics’ roster

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The worst kept secret in the NBA is that the New York Knicks have had their eye on Boston’s Kyrie Irving for more than just this season. The ultimate goal is to pair him with Kevin Durant (actually, KD to the Knicks may be the worst kept secret, pushing Irving back to second).

Irving is not the only guy the Knicks have been eyeing, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Multiple league sources tell NBC Sports Boston that the Knicks, a team with plenty of roster holes to fill this offseason, have interest in at least two other Celtics players besides Irving — Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier — who like Irving, will be free agents this summer.

New York’s interest in Rozier has been steady, only to have picked up during Rozier’s strong showing in the playoffs last year and continued through the February trade deadline, which is when Boston made the decision to keep Rozier and the rest of the team intact.

Rozier — who said he isn’t sure he’ll be back in Boston and has made it clear what he wants is to be a starter, wherever he ends up — would only be a target for New York if Irving didn’t come for whatever reason (Irving decides to stay in Boston, or the Knicks trade for Anthony Davis and don’t have room, etc.)

Morris, who had a strong playoffs averaging 13.7 points per game and shooting 45 percent from three, would bring a physicality, a veteran presence, and could plug right into the Knicks rotation, whatever it looks like.

The Knicks are not the only teams eying these guys, a lot of teams in need of a point guard have their eye on Rozier.

What will be wild come July is that after the big dominos fall — Durant, Irving, Kawhi Leonard — there are a lot of interesting second, third, and fourth tier free agents out there that can help teams. As much as 40 percent of the league will be free agents and there will be real value in that mix for smart GMs who know what kind of players they need and who can fill those roles.

Kyrie Irving on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s free throws: ‘It’s getting ridiculous at this point’

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The Celtics kept fouling Giannis Antetokounmpo in their Game 2 loss to the Bucks last night.

Kyrie Irving sounded agitated about that.

Irving (warning: profanity in the above video):

I mean, it’s inevitable. Guy comes down almost six times in a row and gets free throws. What are you really going to do? It’s slowing the game down. So, the run that you would hope to make in a quarter like that doesn’t happen. Shot 22 on the game. I mean, it’s getting ridiculous at this point. It’s just slowing the f—ing game down.

Hopefully, we can even out the free throws – not just in the fourth quarter.

The refs have a difficult job. We have a difficult job. Obviously, I can sit up here and can complain. We know the disparity and what it is. But I’m not going to put all the emphasis on the refereeing. I think that there are a lot of controllable thing on our end that we can be better at. Obviously, the officiating is going to be part of it. Hopefully, you wish that things could go you way. But they don’t. We have to be able to respond in a better circumstance. We’ve just got to respond better, and I think that we will do that going into Game 4.

Though Irving swore and had the tone of someone complaining about officiating, he didn’t really say anything egregious. He actually put the onus on the Celtics, not the referees.

As he should have. Antetokounmpo earned his 22 free throws last night. Boston just had no way to slow him other than fouling.

Al Horford remains a good defender of Antetokounmpo, but Horford was especially effective in Game 1 because of the Celtics’ excellent help defense. Antetokounmpo has learned he can’t spin and probe as much against Boston. He’s now aggressively attacking the rim before help can slow him. Though Horford has handled that OK, other defenders – Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye – can’t keep up. So, they keep fouling.

If the Celtics stop fouling, they might allow Antetokounmpo to shoot better from the field. There’s no easy answer against a superstar like him.

Also: I find Irving’s complaint about the halting flow strange. The free throws definitely helped the Bucks. But I’m not sure how the game’s long duration benefited one team over the other.

Kyrie Irving: ‘I’m an actual genius when it comes to this game’

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Even a month after Kyrie Irving admitted he erred in leading Boston, Marcus Morris said the Celtics still weren’t together.

But they’ve seemed far more cohesive in the playoffs. They swept the Pacers and have split the first two games against the Bucks. Irving – who promised Boston would be fine in the postseason “because I’m here” – has delivered. Though he struggled in Game 2 against Milwaukee, Irving has readied his teammates for this moment, as Jackie MacMullan of ESPN detailed. Of course, they’ll have to prove it as they face adversity, but it has been a nice start so far.

I recommend reading MacMullan’s full story about  Irving and the Celtics’ chemistry, but I want to focus here on one quote.

Irving, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

“I’ve been playing basketball a lot longer than some of these people analyzing the game,” Irving says. “I’m an actual genius when it comes to this game.

“If you ask me about basketball, I will talk all day. If you ask me about spacing at the 3:33 mark of the second quarter, I will gladly explain it. I’ll tell you what plays worked, about adjustments we make. But when it comes to personal things, or comparing myself to my NBA brothers, like, ‘Do you think you are better than this guy?’ I’m out.”

Irving is a genius on the basketball court. He is a savant as a ball-handler and scorer. He creates and coverts opportunities for himself off the dribble that are literally jaw-dropping.

But I’m not convinced he’s a genius NBA basketball player with everything that entails. For all his ability to read and react on the court, he’s merely adequate at setting up teammates. His leadership is a work in progress. He’s sometimes moody in ways that harm team morale. Those things matter, too.

I also can’t overlook the LeBron James factor. Irving has long seemed envious of the respect LeBron gets for his intelligence. We all gushed over LeBron’s memory of games. Irving wants you to know he can do that, too.

Celtics complete rare sweep by beating Pacers

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INDIANAPOLIS — Gordon Hayward scored 20 points and Marcus Morris started a decisive 3-point flurry late in the fourth quarter Sunday to give the Boston Celtics a series-clinching 110-106 victory at Indiana.

It’s the first four-game sweep for the Celtics since 2011 and their second since 1986-87, becoming the first team to reach the second round of the playoffs.

Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 22 points and Tyreke Evans finished with a playoff career-high of 21 to lead the Pacers. It still wasn’t enough to prevent Indiana from enduring its second first-round sweep in three years – the only two best-of-seven sweeps in franchise history.

This game, unlike the previous three, did not turn on Boston’s suffocating second-half defense. Instead, it was a flagrant foul called on Indiana’s Cory Joseph with 6:45 to play.

Jayson Tatum took advantage by making both free throws to give the Celtics an 83-82 lead. Al Horford sank 1 of 2 on Boston’s next possession and then Morris started the decisive flurry with a 3-pointer with 5:08 to play. Hayward’s three-point play with 4:24 left made it 90-83 and Boston made three more 3s over the next three minutes to take an insurmountable 102-90 lead.

Twice in the first half, it looked like Boston might run away with the victory.

But the Pacers charged back to take a 49-47 halftime lead and extended it to 56-49 in the third quarter.

That’s when Boston rallied, closing a methodical comeback with the final four points of the third to take a 73-72 lead and then put it away behind the shooting of Hayward and Morris, who had 18 points and eight rebounds.

Kyrie Irving had 14 points and seven assists for Boston.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Closed out the series with their seventh straight win against Indiana this season. … Tatum also had 18 points and rebounds while Al Horford finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. … Jaylen Brown added 13 points and Terry Rozier had 11 off the bench. … Boston was 10 of 28 on 3s, 5 of 7 in the fourth.

Pacers: Darren Collison had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists while Thaddeus Young added nine points and nine rebounds. … Domantas Sabonis scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Myles Turner had 13 points and seven rebounds…. The Pacers shot 40.9 percent in the game. … Victor Oladipo made his first public appearance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since suffering a season-ending right knee injury in January.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Will wait to find out who they play in the second round.

Pacers: Head into the offseason contemplating how they can improve next season.

Kyrie Irving torches Pacers for 37 points in Celtics win

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In what had been a tight game, the Pacers built a four-point lead over the Celtics with four minutes left in the third quarter. From there:

Irving scored 37 points and dished seven assists, leading Boston to a 99-91 Game 2 win Wednesday. The Celtics now lead the first-round series 2-0. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 93% of the time.

The Pacers just can’t muster enough offense – not against this sound Boston defense. Indiana went nearly nine scoreless minutes in the fourth quarter. Even after ending that drought, the Pacers’ final five possessions: miss, miss, miss, turnover, turnover.

This is why the Celtics got Irving. His ability to create shots sets them apart in these slogging playoff games.

Jayson Tatum added 26 points. But Al Horford struggled while playing through illness. Marcus Morris shot 0-for-8. Jaylen Brown didn’t really get going.

This wasn’t the prettiest game for Boston, but because of Irving, it was a win.