Celtics Have Exploited Blatant Mavericks Dilemma In NBA Finals

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The Boston Celtics have been scrutinized, questioned, and underappreciated throughout the postseason, even doubted entering their NBA Finals matchup against the Dallas Mavericks.

Luka Doncic, by far, was the best performer entering the winner-take-all clash, and it wasn’t up for debate. Doncic had been clutch, dangerous, and lethal in guiding Dallas through a contender-filled Western Conference, putting away the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves amid their run to the Finals.

Yet, two games down — and two wins left to go for the Celtics — and the Mavericks are in desperate need of a response.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to make some more shots,” Doncic said following Game 2, per a league-provided transcript. “I think my turnovers and my missed free throws cost us the game. So I’ve got to do way better in those two categories.”

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Doncic finished with a game-high 32 points in Game 2 but also committed a game-high eight turnovers. He was sluggish on defense, getting burned by Celtics drive after Celtics drive, which also played a factor in Dallas being unable to get ahead of Boston in the second half. In the fourth quarter, when the Celtics led in the single digits at multiple points, Doncic was nowhere to be found, shooting 1-of-6 from the field.

Doncic added: “Every game we lose, it’s a missed opportunity for us.”

Now, the star on the other end, Jayson Tatum, also struggled by scoring only 18 points on 6-of-22 shooting, however, there’s a key difference: Tatum’s depth had his back while Doncic was left to play Superman solo. Everyone, besides Doncic, was held to under 20 points, including partner-in-crime Kyrie Irving who shot 7-of-18, missed all three 3-pointers, and scored 16 points.

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“This is a team game,” Irving explained postgame, per a league-provided transcript. “He’s not alone, and we are going to tell him that. As expected, he’s fresh off the court. He’s spilling into his emotions, feels like he could play better, just like me.”

That ability to play a “team game” makes the separation between the No. 5 seed Mavericks and league-best 64-win Celtics glaring. Jrue Holiday led the scoring department with 26 points on an efficient 11-of-14 shooting. Derrick White delivered the block of the postseason in the fourth quarter, saving the Celtics from a potential dramatic, nail-biting race to the finish line.

Doncic hasn’t had any of that.

The Celtics crowd seemingly is winning the mind games duel with Irving, booing the eight-time All-Star from pregame warmups to the final buzzer. Irving’s even extended a now-12-game losing streak when facing Boston, and if it could reach the magic number 14, the Celtics have Banner 18 secured.

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“To go to Dallas now 2-0,” Kristaps Porzingis said, per a league-provided transcript. “It’s going to be some tough games on the road, but it’s good we took care of business tonight and go to Dallas up 2-0.”

It was Boston with all the pressure entering the series, yet after consecutive wins at home, Dallas will be tasked with presenting some fight to avoid the daunting and never-encouraging 0-3 deficit in Game 3. At this rate, based on how the Mavericks have responded, it’s not looking promising.

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