Clippers’ Marcus Morris produces and plays instigator in opening round of playoffs

When fans think back on Marcus Morris Sr.’s role in the Clippers’ Western Conference first-round series win against the Dallas Mavericks, the first thing that comes to mind likely will be his Game 6 ejection, the result of his chop to the back of Luka Doncic’s neck as Morris defended his drive to the basket.

And then they’ll probably recall the debate about whether Morris did or didn’t intentionally step on Doncic’s sprained left foot in Game 5 — Morris, let’s not forget, says no way was it purposeful.

But beyond the aggressive tenor that Morris set on the court in the Clippers’ first playoff series victory since 2015 — a welcome contribution on its own, to hear coach Doc Rivers tell it — the 30-year-old Philadelphian produced in the box score, too.

He averaged 12.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and shot 53.7% from the floor.

And he also defended Doncic — who, yes, shone like a superstar against the Clippers, averaging 31.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists — as well as any of the Clippers.

Morris said he gladly accepted the assignment, and proceeded to contest and harass en route to a defensive rating of 108.2 (against the NBA’s most efficient regular-season offense, ever). That was better than all of the Clippers who received notable playing time, except Ivica Zubac (101.6) and Landry Shamet (104.4).

Dallas’ dazzling 21-year-old point guard scored 186 points in the series, but only 34 points came when Morris was his primary defender, as he was more often than any one else, according to NBA.com/stats matchup data.

The site also reports that Doncic dished seven assists when Morris was guarding him, but that he turned over the ball eight times. Morris, after all, averaged 1.3 steals and nearly three deflections a game in the series.

“I thought that Marcus throughout was not only just a good player, but he was an instigator,” Rivers said after Sunday’s victory, as the Clippers waited for their second-round opponent to emerge from the closely contested Denver-Utah first-round series — which the Nuggets extended to a Game 7 on Tuesday.

“I love Marcus’s intensity,” Rivers added. “He’s a tough guy. He’s not backing down and I love that.”

Morris is proving to be who the Clippers thought he’d be when they traded for the former New York Knick at the deadline, when Morris tweeted, “They gotta dog in Hollyhood,” and General Manager Michael Winger surmised: “His experience and toughness align with the spirit of our group.”

“You know what, man?” said Morris, the ninth-year forward, to reporters after the win Sunday. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. … I came with the same intensity every year. I’m the type of guy that’s going to give you everything I got out there. I’m physical man. There’s no way around it, but a dirty player I am not.

“I hang my hat on coming to work every day, doing my job, watching film, on the court, in the weight room. I hang my hat on being a tough player, man. Guys see me and know it’s going to be a tough matchup, and they know I’m going to give it my all, and I’m happy about that.”

SHOOT IT WITH CONFIDENCE

Kawhi Leonard’s accomplice late in Sunday’s series-clinching victory? Reggie Jackson.

Together Jackson and Leonard poured 20 quick points on the Mavericks, dousing their comeback attempt and effectively finishing their season.

Jackson — who joined the Clippers shortly after Morris did, coming aboard in February after a contract buyout in Detroit — scored 12 of his 14 points in the final period, when he went 4 for 5 from 3-point range (and blocked a shot) to help secure the Clippers’ 111-97 victory.

Afterward, Rivers credited him among the contributors that got the Clippers through, and his longtime pal Paul George said he was happy for Jackson, who, by the way, shot 16 for 28 (57.1%) from behind the arc during the series.

“Reg stepped up,” George said. “Those buckets were big, meaningful baskets at a time where we needed them … the confidence that he shot those with was huge.”