The Los Angeles Lakers got off to an incredible start in the first quarter of Game 2 against the Houston Rockets. After a lackluster Game 1, L.A. felt they needed to set a tone early, which was aided by the hot shooting of Markieff Morris.
Morris — who joined the team prior to the NBA season being suspended — figured to play a key role against the small-ball Rockets. However,that didn’t pan out in Game 1, as he put up zeros across the board and a minus-10 in just nine minutes of play.
But Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is not the type to give up on someone after one bad game, and Morris reaped the benefits in Game 2. Morris ensured the confidence in him would pay off, rattling off four straight threes en route to a 16-point, 5-rebound performance in 23 minutes.
“I was feeling normal. Last game I didn’t feel like I affected the game at all,” Morris said. “It’s not even just making shots. I felt like I didn’t do anything. I didn’t bring energy, I didn’t bring toughness, I didn’t rebound the ball.
“I had zero stats across the board, so I felt like I had to be a little more aggressive. This is the best series for me to play a lot of minutes. I fit the small-ball mold for this team. We just went out there and fought hard. Got to tip our hats to them because they fought hard back, but we stood and fought back.”
More important than the shooting for Morris was his rebounding effort against the scrappy P.J. Tucker. “That was big. P.J. Tucker was doing a great job of offensive rebounding. We gave up four early in the game and two late in the fourth. We just had to emphasize that,” Morris explained.
“They’re small, scrappy guys. They’re going to scrap, we’ve just got to scrap with them. We were emphasizing blocking out those corner crashes, and we did that late in the game. We’ve got to continue to do things like that. It’s the small things that are going to win this series for us.”
How Morris and the rest of the Lakers respond in Game 3 will be crucial to the outcome of the series. If they put in the same energy and effort from Sunday — even if the shots don’t fall as consistently — it should mean good things.
But another lackluster performance like Game 1 could give Houston enough confidence to push them over the edge.
Frank Vogel envisioned a large role for Morris in the postseason
Even before the Lakers first round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers began, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel believed that Morris would play a huge role.
“I think it’s been a slow and steady buildup from the time he joined us [in the bubble]. I feel good about what he can bring to our team in the playoffs,” Vogel said last month.
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