Markieff Morris makes no bones about Washington's needs: 'We're not playing tough enough'

Markieff Morris warms up. (Getty Images)

You may have noticed that the Washington Wizards looked a little irascible in their Game 2 loss on Tuesday evening. It looks as if Markieff Morris’ influence has just about taken hold.

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Just about. The Wizards contributed a giant effort that fell just short in Boston in Game 1, watching as a series of either/or plays went the Celtics’ way in the team’s 129-119 win. The Wizards’ big forward, however, hardly thinks his team’s tone and play matched the pitch needed to overthrow the home favorite, on a night few would soon forget.

Via AJ Neuharth-Keusch at USA Today, here’s Markieff getting right to the point:

“We’re not playing tough enough.

[…]

“We had the advantage late in the game and all we had to do was just play tough. We didn’t have to make shots. We didn’t have to get stops. All we had to do was play tough. We let them get offensive rebounds late in the game. Guys (were) just walking to the basket and we’re just worried about our own personal (expletive). It’s about the team.”

[…]

“We emphasized (getting 50-50 balls) when we watched film that that’s what they do when they go (with a smaller lineup),” Morris said. “They play tough. They’ve got guys that are going in head first. That’s what we’ve got to do. It’s the playoffs. Every possession counts.”

[…]

“At the end of the day it’s about winning and we didn’t care too much about that tonight. We let them back in the game. We’ve got to regroup and get the next one.”

That’s a noble way to end things, but if the Wizards truly were focused on the smaller lineups (mostly featuring the pugnacious Marcus Smart, slithery Avery Bradley and bounding Jae Crowder tossing their livelihood into the scrum in search of an offensive rebound) in the days heading into Game 1, what’s another round of tape-watching and head-bashing going to do?

The team took its time in countering with a small lineup of its own down the stretch, even after Morris sat for about 40 minutes of real time after picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, only dumping beleaguered big man Marcin Gortat in an unproductive overtime frame.

This has not been a good look for Washington. (Getty Images)

Prior to that Markieff was paired in with Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter Jr. in an orthodox lineup for Washington, as the team traded runs with the Celtics down the stretch of the fourth with Gortat chasing both Thomas and C’s center Al Horford throughout. To limited success.

The Celtics pulled in 28 percent of their offensive rebound chances, but that mark ranks below Washington, which grabbed 13 second-chance caroms in the loss. It was inaction in the wrong times that felled the Wizards, not a one-sided blast.

Wizards point guard John Wall may have been confused postgame when he noted a phantom corner 3-pointer off of a Horford offensive board that cut the lead to two (Horford did corral an offensive rebound over Gortat with 2:46 left in the fourth, but only passed to a Crowder miss with the C’s up five) or the “two offensive rebounds in the last two minutes” that Washington gave up (they gave up two in the last three minutes, both resulting in Boston misses). But he certainly wasn’t confused with his estimation as to why Isaiah Thomas had the legs needed to spring free for his legendary Game 2 performance:

For the Poindexters, from Ben Rohrbach’s Game 2 gamer spun from Boston on Tuesday evening:

“He’s up there,” Wall said of Thomas in the current point guard pantheon, before throwing just a bit of shade on his sparring partner. “They’re a great defensive team. He has the opportunity where he can rest defensively. He doesn’t have to guard. They have other guys who can guard for him, and he saves a lot of energy for the offensive end, and he goes out and does everything they need him to do.”

Down 0-2, Wall is loath to fill up reporters’ notebooks with plaudits for a rival All-Star guard with whom he hopes to square off four or five more times before this series is over. The Wizards cannot trust most of their bench for extended minutes, and Wall’s backups are no exception. Brandon Jennings was in charge for an 11-4 Celtics spurt to start the second quarter with John resting, and a 5-0 Boston run to end the third quarter with Wall on the bench.

Wall was dead-tired down the stretch, and it showed. Still, a 47-minute total in a 53-minute playoff game has been performed before, and executed with more lasting precision.

Washington’s All-Star was 2-for-9 from the floor down the stretch of the fourth quarter and overtime, while Thomas danced his way toward 29 points in the same run. It’s hardly fair to pin the hopes of a franchise on staying in front of all-world point guards in 2017 — the (much-needed) hand-check laws more or less ensure that 15 different PGs can breeze their way toward Hall of Fame stat lines once per week — but Wall looked as if he could have done more.

That’s, at least, what Morris might expect.

If that’s wildly unfair, Morris probably doesn’t want to hear it. He’s not the guy left hanging on an island with a 5-foot-9 waterbug deep into the fourth quarter, just because his own point guard (featuring long arms and a 6-foot-4 frame) couldn’t make his way through a screen. A screen set by a shooting guard (Crowder) masquerading as a stretch power forward:

Thomas isn’t expected to fight through the same screens. That’s John Wall’s point. It’s an accurate one — and one he needs to forget.

There are two All-Stars on Washington’s roster, but Bradley Beal had an inexplicable night to forget on Tuesday in Game 2, and it’s obvious that Morris — even with Wall dropping 40 points and 13 assists in the loss — wants a little bit more.

That’s the hope, for the sports-chat radio fodder at least. Wall and Morris were probably equally upset with Gortat’s play in Game 2, or the eventual small-ball response, but there really isn’t a whole hell of a lot this group can do to counter these squirmin’ C’s, other than getting plenty of rest the night before and fluids the day of the game.

Gortat (14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks) was overmatched on a few defensive rebound attempts, and his defensive work left much to the imagination throughout. But he’s not changing his spots, or removing three years of wear and tear from his legs, in 48 hours.

The Wizards never went long stretches with Gortat off the floor during Game 2, and when he did sit the team mostly stayed pat — for the first 48 minutes, at least.

The Wizards fell apart in OT when the center fouled out. (“Nice try, next question,” Wiz coach Scott Brooks blurted, after being baited with a legitimate officiating question following the loss.) Morris should be the first to remind you that the Wizards’ OT attempts at thinning the trees — Wall, Beal, Morris, Porter and Kelly Oubre — led to a disastrous closeout in the loss. Heads were turned, defensive rebounds were lost, and daggers were thrown:

Markieff Morris doesn’t like that. Among other things:

Sometimes, some players move into open spaces quicker than others. Sometimes, the result is inexplicable. Moving back home for Games 3 and 4, the Wizards hope that just enough luck and a little more effort and toughness — a winning mix of artificial and the obvious — will be enough to pull in those 50/50 balls.

If that doesn’t work, blame the center.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!