BOSTON — The Boston Celtics will move Marcus Morris into the starting lineup for Sunday’s Game 1 of their Eastern Conference finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers to try to slow down LeBron James.
Morris, who Saturday declared himself one of the best in the league at guarding James, adds more versatility to a Boston defense that yearns to maximize the number of defenders it can throw Cleveland’s star. Celtics center Aron Baynes will come off the bench to begin the series.
The Celtics have routinely tinkered with their starting lineup throughout the postseason. Late in Round 1, Boston coach Brad Stevens went small and put rookie Semi Ojeleye into the starting frontcourt to help defend Giannis Antetokounmpo. In Round 2, the Celtics went big with Baynes on the court to joust with the 76ers’ Joel Embiid.
Stevens praised his players, and particularly Baynes, for understanding the need to mix and match bodies based on matchups.
“We’ve done this with Baynes all year against certain matchups,” Stevens said. “… He knows that, obviously, [Kevin] Love at the 5 is a unique coverage. And then [we] just [need] as many versatile guys out there as possible to guard LeBron and the other guys on the court.
“I said this not enough times, that you can’t have better leaders than Al and Baynes. Like, you can’t. They’re both our two oldest players. They are totally selfless. They are totally in it for the team. They wrap their arms around young guys, [and] young guys feel ownership with them. Like, as good as it gets.
“Being able to take [Baynes] in and out of the lineup, it has set a great example for everybody else. Then so when a guy like Jaylen’s coming off injury last series, he just knows that’s just part of it. Sometimes you don’t start the next game, and I think that’s a really good situation to be in. It’s due to the leadership of those guys.”