ATLANTA — Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris continues to make the first postseason series of his career a memorable one — mostly with his words.
While many players might opt for cliched praise for opponents as to not needlessly stir the pot, Morris has grabbed the biggest spoon he could find and mixed personal animosity into this first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.
His target: four-time all-star Paul Millsap. After the Hawks’ dominating Game 3 performance (a 116-98 trouncing) in which Millsap played his best game of the series (29 points and 14 rebounds), Morris offered a backhanded compliment — then a verbal suplex.
“Good game. He did more for his team tonight. Me as a man, you know, you take your wins with your losses and I take my wins with my losses all the time.” Morris said. “You know, he did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. You get all the calls and you a crybaby.”
After the game, Millsap sat beside teammate Dennis Schroder for the post-game media session. When Millsap heard Morris’s comments, he groaned while Schroder exclaimed: “Oh, my God! … No.”
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Asked if the matchup between himself and Morris had grown personal, Millsap responded: “It definitely got personal now, yes.”
Then, Millsap smirked, and Schroder covered his face.
“I mean, I don’t care. So what,” Millsap said. “Take his loss and go back to the hotel. Be ready for the next game.”
The Morris-Millsap dynamic has boiled since the start of the series. Before the opening game, Morris dissed the stretch-four label as “soft” but tagged Millsap as a stretch-four forward. Then the war of words truly began when after the Wizards’ Game 1 win, as Millsap disparaged Washington for “playing MMA.”
Morris countered by coining the phrase”double MMA” — and the combined 55 personal fouls in Game 2 mirrored as much. Also, Morris did not appreciate another Millsap comment that the “Hawks want to let“ players other than John Wall and Bradley Beal score.
By Saturday, the rivalry erupted again, and judging by Morris’s words, he felt Millsap whined for foul calls.
In Game 3 Morris took 14 shots but did not attempt a free throw. However, Millsap was rewarded with nine foul shots. By the 6:08 mark of the second quarter, Millsap had recorded three trips to the free-throw line and who knows if that was the reason that fired up Morris, but after draining a three-pointer, Morris immediately got close to Millsap’s face and barked at him all the way down the court.
However, that was Morris’s lone highlight against Millsap. Looking more like an all-star, Millsap scored the bulk of his 12 field goals against Morris. Since Game 1 when Morris made his playoff debut with a strong performance of 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, he has not reached double figures over the next two games, finishing with three and nine points, respectively.