Had had his Cavaliers cave in to a 26-point deficit at the half, becoming the biggest halftime playoff gap in James's career since he entered the National Basketball Association right out of high school. He's obviously the best player in the game, and you need multiple guys and a team to guard him an entire game.
"Because I'm a competitor".
In Sunday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics, LeBron James had an outing to forget. Although Morris picked up three fouls in the first half, he did not turn tentative and still defended James with gusto on 24 plays.
"I have zero level of concern at this stage", the forward said after an uncharacteristically off-key display that saw him finish with just 15 points while committing seven turnovers. "We have another opportunity to be better as a ball club coming in Tuesday night, and we'll see what happens".
"Every game is a statement game", said Celtics point guard Terry Rozier. They suffered a similar loss in Game 1 of their first round series against the Pacers, only to bounce back in Game 2 behind 46 points, 12 rebounds and five assists from James. One of James' worst playoff performances of his career. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series, 1-0. Missing their two prized possessions in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, not much was expected to come easy. The Celtics are not scared to go toe-to-toe with a team that has ruled the East with an iron fist since LeBron James' arrival in 2014 - and for good reason.
"I think it was our energy defensively", Al Horford said.
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"It's a team effort, man, it's not just me", Morris said. "Once we step between them lines, we have to compete no matter who we have out there, and that's what we've been doing".
Start of the fourth quarter, cut it to 14 points.
The Cavaliers rank 23rd in points in the paint per game (43.4) while the Celtics rank 29th (40.3).
"They punked us", Tristan Thompson told ESPN. In 2012, with the C's one win away from a shocking return to the Finals, LeBron stepped on the floor in Boston with the ruthless disposition of the Terminator. Boston's 36-18 lead at the end of one quarter was the second-largest in a playoff game in franchise history. A variety of commentators predicted the team's demise, including Hall of Famer Charles Barkley saying: "Their season's over". Imagine Jake LaMotta taunting Sugar Ray Robinson with, "I never went down, Ray".
It was more than they needed.
Although it's not uncommon for players to spend off-the-clock hours with their personal trainers, Morris brought his guy from his hometown Philadelphia to Celtics practices held in Waltham, Mass. He also committed seven of the team's nine turnovers. James averaged 34 points, 9.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists in the first two rounds of the playoffs but the superstar playmaker, seeking an eighth consecutive NBA Finals berth, was shut down by an aggressive, hustling Celtics squad.
Cleveland scored seven straight points early in the third and finished the quarter with six in a row to make it 78-64.