Marcus Morris’ unique skill set too much for Cavs to handle in overtime loss to Knicks

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Marcus Morris Sr. was cooking the Cavaliers defense Monday night in ways that he knows best: scoring in the midrange and making threes.

Cedi Osman was tasked with guarding Morris most of the night, but he and the Cavs couldn’t contain the skilled forward. Morris poured in 26 points and shot 53.3% from the field as the Cavs fell, 139-134, to the New York Knicks in overtime.

Morris did his best work in the fourth quarter and overtime, when he totaled 16 points. As the Cavs took control in the fourth, leading by 10 points with 5:17 left, Morris answered with seven straight points to bring the Knicks within three points with 3:58 left.

Two of those buckets in that stretch were from the midrange, an area where Morris excels.

“He’s got good size and length, and he’s got ability on his jump shot to just create just a little bit of space without dribbling it, or even with a dribble,” Cavs coach John Beilein said. “There’s not a lot of really good 15-, 17-foot shooters off the dribble or whatever. And he is really good at it.”

A nine-year forward out of Kansas, Morris is averaging a career-high 19.6 points per game. He leads the Knicks in scoring this season, and in January he had his best month of the season so far, averaging 21.7 points on 45.9% shooting.

Morris hasn’t been this involved in an offense until this season – he boasts a career-high 23.7% usage percentage, according to NBA.com stats.

As the Knicks were down by one in overtime, Morris took over. He scored the game’s final six points. The play below was what helped seal the Cavs’ fate.

Osman, who had struggled to defend Morris all night, got a one-on-one matchup in the final moments of overtime. As Morris hit Osman with some small jab steps, he made a quick burst to the right and let the shot fly over Osman’s hand.

“When he gets in his rhythm, it’s hard to stop him just because he’s a scorer, that’s what he does,” Cavs guard Collin Sexton said. “He’s been playing really good for them this past month, so they’re pretty much just going with him.”

The Cavs haven’t had to guard many players who thrive in the midrange. With their defense against Morris, his ability to create space gave him the edge, as he routinely floated shots over defenders. According to NBA.com stats, Morris is shooting 47.9% on shots from 15-19 feet.

But along with his midrange skills, Morris is shooting a career-high 43.9% from the 3-point line. He ranks fifth in the NBA in 3-point percentage. On Monday night, he shot 2-of-4 from deep.

“What makes him tough to guard is that he can just – he’s got a handle as if he’s a guard, but he’s 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9,” Cavs big man Larry Nance Jr. said. “You can see we didn’t know what to do with him tonight. I would have liked to get a crack at it just to see what I could do, but obviously he was making his shots, and a guy like that when he’s making shots with a hand in his face, you tap him on the back say, ‘Hey, good game.’ That’s experience.”

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