Celtics’ Plan To Defend Luka Doncic Clear After Game 1 Of NBA Finals

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It’s probably overly simplistic to say the Celtics don’t care about Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic’s scoring output throughout the NBA Finals.

Boston kind of doesn’t care about his scoring output throughout the NBA Finals, though.

Doncic had a customarily solid night filling up the box score in Game 1 on Thursday, finishing with 30 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of steals in the loss at TD Garden. It’s more about what he wasn’t able to do, which is effectively create for his teammates.

Doncic was limited to just one assist in the opener, which is his lowest mark since Jan. 26, 2023 — a game he left with an injury after just three minutes. If you’re looking for something more representative of the night he had Thursday, you’d have to go all the way back to May 7, 2021 — when he recorded just one assist in 20 minutes.

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The Celtics aren’t all that interested in stopping Doncic, they just want to make him do it all by himself.

It’s something we probably could have gleaned from their responses leading up to Game 1, where Jrue Holiday and Derrick White each dropped the same “pray” response when asked about stopping him. Dallas quickly caught on to what Boston was doing, but couldn’t adjust quick enough to stop the stagnating offense.

“Give the Celtics credit,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said, per league-provided video. “They did a great job defending, making it tough on us. We had some good looks that didn’t go down. We’ve got to move the ball. The ball just stuck too much and we’ll be better in Game 2.”

Doncic was able to get a few threes to go down, but outside of his 4-for-12 performance beyond the arc, the Mavericks couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from distance. Dallas shot an abysmal 3-for-15 from range outside of Doncic — with Kyrie Irving missing all five of his attempts.

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The Celtics would be foolish to believe that trend will continue, but there’s also no reason to think it will revert all the way back to the mean. Boston attacked Doncic on the offensive end, which had a clear impact on his ability to run the full-court offense. Dallas had no sort of fast-break presence, which essentially killed them early on.

Doncic is too good to have a similar performance in Game 2 or beyond, but the general idea behind their defense should remain the same. You can’t let that guy beat you. It has to be someone else, and if they straight up refuse to knock down shots, things could get ugly in a hurry.

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