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Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris said Saturday the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is the only player more capable of defending Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James than himself.
Jay King of The Athletic provided comments from Morris as the Celtics prepare to battle the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals starting Sunday.
“Personally, I think probably the best guy defending him in the league, outside of Kawhi,” he said.
While there’s nothing wrong with exuding confidence, it’s hard to find any numbers that would back up that argument as he gets prepared to battle the NBA’s gold standard.
Morris ranked 78th out of 90 power forwards in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus and 75th among all forwards in defensive win shares this season, per NBA.com.
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James also shined against Boston during the regular season. He nearly averaged a triple-double, putting up 24 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting 53.7 percent from the field across three games. Morris only appeared in two of those contests, though.
Meanwhile, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown told reporters the Cavs forward is a mismatch, regardless of who’s trying to defend him:
“Physically, he is more superior than any guy that is on the floor. He’s 260-plus pounds. Can run like a gazelle. Athletic. He’s physical. He’s just unstoppable. We gotta be mentally locked in and have a mindset to try and do the best we can. LeBron is top three, top five of all-time. He’s going to do what he does. We just gotta take away the other guys and have a great mindset of mentally being locked in every possession.”
That’s closer to Boston’s true path to success. James is likely going to put up monster numbers, but if the Celtics can consistently limit his supporting cast, led by Kevin Love, they’ll have a chance to pull off the upset despite the continued absences of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
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