The Los Angeles Lakers secured a crucial game two win to even up their second-round series against the Houston Rockets on Sunday. An important key to their big win was Markieff Morris, who came off the bench to score 16 points and grab five rebounds. Most of Morris’ damage was done in the first half as part of an extended run that saw the Lakers take a 21-point lead.
Morris made his first five shots, including four 3-pointers and finished the night six-of-eight from behind the arc. It was the forward’s best performance in purple and gold thus far and it came at a crucial juncture. After the game, Morris was self-critical of his performance in purple and gold but showed confidence that he could keep putting in these efforts when given the opportunity:
Markieff on his own scoring explosion in the first half.
"It's about time I hit some shots, I haven't hit any shots, shit, since I've been here, really… I'm playoff ready. Whatever coach needs, I'm gonna do."
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) September 7, 2020
Morris did not get much of an opportunity in game one, only seeing nine minutes of action but he made the most out of his chances in game two. Beyond the production, Morris was a key in how the Lakers played, effectively taking the backup center role away from Dwight Howard who did not play at all. Using Morris in that role allowed the Lakers to match the Rockets’ small ball while not sacrificing much physicality on the glass. More importantly, it helped the team’s spacing, especially when Rajon Rondo was also on the floor; 17 of Rondo’s 28 minutes on the night came with Morris on the floor. In fact, all four of Morris’ made threes were assisted by the point guard:
Beyond Morris’ help spacing the floor, his physicality was huge. The Lakers did not lose much in terms of deterring Rockets’ drives when he was on the court as opposed to Anthony Davis or JaVale McGee and he helped the team stabilize on the defensive glass by boxing out P.J. Tucker who killed the Rockets in that department. One of those box outs led to Tucker’s third foul in the first half. All in all, the Lakers outscored the Rockets by 15 when Morris was on the floor
It remains to be seen what kind of opportunities Morris gets moving forward in this series and it could depend on an MRI for McGee’s ankle. But he proved in game two that he is more than capable of producing and, more importantly, he is a near-perfect fit against this Rockets team on both ends of the floor to help maximize his teammates. Frank Vogel, no doubt, made the same observation and it would be hard not to see Morris on the floor quite a bit the rest of the way.