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3 things we observed as the Mavericks fall to the Celtics, 116-106

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Kemba Walker detonates and Dallas loses it’s first road game of the season.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks came into tonight’s game with one of the stiffest challenges of the season against the Boston Celtics stifling, top-tier defense.

The Mavericks appeared to be on their way to a good old fashioned whooping, looking flatter than Stanley in the first quarter but managed to stay within in distance and even tied it up going into halftime.

Dallas took it’s first lead of the game on a Dorian Finney-Smith corner three, but the Celtics promptly retook the lead and saw it swell to double digits midway through the third. Boston looked primed to blow the game open, but the Mavericks bench, led by Delon Wright, clawed back at the lead to keep Dallas in striking distance.

The Mavericks weren’t without chances with the game very much available for the taking, but struggles from deep (11-of-42) and Kemba Walker exploding from behind the arc put to bed any Mavericks comeback chances. Walker paced the Celtics with 29 points (8-of-14 from three) and Jaylen Brown contributed 25 points and 11 rebounds. Doncic continued his torrid pace for Dallas scorching Boston for 34 points, six rebounds and nine assists.

Here’s what we saw as the Mavericks fall to 6-4:

Kristaps Porzingis has a ways to go

Porzingis was coming off several days rest after sitting out against the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday, but the last game we saw was one of his best in a losing effort to the Knicks.

Apparently, the rest was too much because Porzingis had one of his poorest outings yet. He picked up three fouls early, but that simply illustrates how much of a non factor he was defensively. The Celtics made it point to attack the Mavericks’ big man in the pick-and-roll and had tremendous success scoring 16 of their 25 first quarter points in the paint.

Porzingis was an even bigger mess offensively and finally scored his first points on a wide open triple with 9:27 remaining in the third. For the game he chipped in four points and grabbed five rebounds while shooting 1-of-11 from the field (1-of-4 from three). The biggest wart in his performance was allowing the Celtics to guard him with smaller players like Marcus Smart. Porzingis looked horribly uncomfortable and showed zero ability to make a post move or shoot over any defender. It was a nightmare outing for Porzingis who will need to shake it off quickly with a road tilt against the Knicks on the horizon.

The Mavericks lack a secondary playmaker

This was apparent after the Mavericks whiffed (or didn’t try) on offseason targets, but really stuck out tonight against the Celtics premier defense. Boston forced Doncic to work for all 34 of his points, trapping him on screens, throwing significant length at him in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum while Marcus Smart hounded him in spells.

And on a night Porzingis struggled mightily, the Mavericks simply didn’t have enough offensive punch to keep up with Walker and Brown. Ideally, Curry plays that role most night, but he’s gotten off to a slow start this season and had an uncharacteristic shooting night scoring only two points and missing all four of his triples. Brunson is also a candidate, but his shooting has been far too inconsistent, though tonight was much better. He scored 12 points while grabbing seven much needed rebounds.

Doncic is getting close to being the kind of mega star that regularly carries subpar clubs to wins, but he’s not quite there yet and needs some help creating. So that brings us to…

Delon Wright – a very savvy player

If there is an answer to the Mavericks playmaking woes outside of Doncic, it’s Wright. While he failed to standout in the box score (nine points, four rebounds, two assists, one rebound and one steal), Wright was a key reason the Mavericks stayed in this game. In the third quarter, after the Celtics took a double digit lead, Wright’s steadiness and experience kept the Mavericks afloat. In the span of a few minutes he notched a steal, blocked a jump shot, scored a layup and made two free throws.

Wright’s greatest skill, arguably, is his ability to finish at the rim. He does an exceptional job using his body and the rim to fend off lurking shot blockers, and that kind of penetration and threat is severely lacking elsewhere on this roster. While many Mavericks settle for threes even when the well is dry, Wright’s relentless attacks to the basket are refreshing.

The Mavericks are back in action Thursday in Porzingis’ New York homecoming.

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball” a bit further down the page, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.