Historically, some of the most successful NBA teams have had an irritant -- that player who specializes in getting under the skin of opponents. Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, and more recently Manu Ginobili come to mind. Additionally, there's the tough guy who serves as a protector and enforcer, like Anthony Mason, Rick Mahorn, and Kevin Garnett.

Wizards search for identity following Pierce's departure

When Paul Pierce departed the Washington Wizards in free agency during the summer of 2015 many fans were left to ponder who would fill a huge void in terms of toughness and tenacity.

Enter Markieff Morris via trade in February 2016 who at the time was facing a felony aggravated assault charge, threw a towel at then-head coach Jeff Hornaceck, and engaged in a shoving match with former Phoenix Suns teammate Archie Goodwin. A perfect fit to fill that tough guy role, right?

For Morris' first season and a half in Washington all plausible judgments appeared inaccurate. While he definitely played hard and always looked to give maximum effort on the court, there were zero notable on or off-court incidents, no public squabbles with teammates or coaches -- until the 2017 playoffs rolled around.

The evolution of Markieff Morris as team enforcer

From the opening tip of Game 1 versus the Atlanta Hawks there was a noticeable change in Morris.

It was like a flip of a switch from chill mode to playoff mode. The transition from chill mode has resulted in a more fierce demeanor, a higher level of physicality, and a no nonsense approach which was most evident in his back and forth spats with Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap.

Millsap referred to the Wizards' physical style of play as "MMA," in large part due to Markieff Morris.

Morris later infamously called Millsap a "crybaby" and now he finds himself in the midst of a beef with Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. This current beef appeared to start with Thomas inadvertently elbowing Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. Wizards fans have to appreciate the stand taken for Porter as well as the reaction of Celtics players who didn't appear very eager to approach Morris.

Morris' growing confidence has appeared equally important, as he has become more candid during interviews. This includes his recent jab at the Celtics, saying, "Hopefully the other guys miss shots like they been doing," in reference to players not named Isaiah Thomas.

Confidence provides a measure of poise needed to win a road game in Boston where Washington has not scored a victory in the past two seasons. Additionally, coaching adjustments for Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks will be essential, as the Celtics are a more efficient shooting team at home. During the four games in Boston versus the Wizards this season (including the playoffs) the Celtics shot an average of 48.9% as opposed to 41.8% in Washington. This key statistic shows that the Wizards cannot simply rely on "the other guys to miss."