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3 observations following the Dallas Mavericks’ loss to the Boston Celtics, 109-103

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A missed opportunity at home

NBA: Boston Celtics at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (18-9) fell at home to the Boston Celtics (18-7) Wednesday night, 109-103. Kemba Walker paced Boston, scoring early and late, pouring in 32 points. Kristaps Porzingis had another double double in defeat, scoring 23 and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Each team opened the game rusty, with neither Dallas nor Boston unable to connect on any shots. A pair of Kristaps Porzingis drive-and-kicks let the Mavericks take an early 6-3 lead which quickly ballooned to a 13-5 lead. After a Celtics timeout, Kemba Walker caught fire and took tempo away from the Mavericks. A broad based team effort kept Dallas in the game in the first, while Walker paced the Celtics with 16 points. After 12 minutes, each team ended up with 29 points.

The choppy feel of the game continued into the second quarter, with Boston taking a quick lead only for the Mavericks to rally back. The teams traded baskets for most of the quarter, with Dallas finally creating a broader scoring margin half way through the frame. With big threes from Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. following stellar defense on the Celtics, it looked like the Mavericks might run away with the game, going up 10. Boston responded with an 8-0 run in the final minutes of the frame to make it uncomfortable. Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr. helped give Dallas some wiggle room at the half with some free throws and a three pointer. The Mavericks led 55-50 after two quarters.

The Celtics tied the game almost immediately to start the third frame. But a Porzingis three, Powell dunk, Hardaway lay in, and another Porzingis post up boosted Dallas ahead by nine points. Once again, it looked like Dallas was in firm control. The Mavericks held a 5-7 point lead for a good portion of the quarter before a Tatum three and a dumb Dwight Powell tech resulting in a Boston free throw got the Celtics back in the contest. The Maverick offense somehow got even sloppier and Boston took advantage, getting ahead late and taking a 76-73 lead into the fourth.

Dallas quickly tied the game a minute into the fourth, but the Celtics ground out a 8 point advantage in the first six minutes. The Mavericks simply could not hit shots. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson continued really rough shooting performances from the field. After another Hardaway brick from distance (where he looked off an open Porzingis), Kemba Walker broke out of his slump to nail a three for his first points since the opening quarter to put the Celtics up nine with around five minutes remaining. Brunson would answer with a three of his own, but then lost the ball repeatedly. The Celtics extended to a double digit lead with four minutes remaining. Seth Curry made it interesting late with a scoring flurry, but no other Mavericks could hit shots. In the scramble of the final minute, Ryan Broekhoff came off the bench to hit a three and a pair of foul shots, but it was not enough to rally. Dallas loses at home again, 109-103.

Now, some additional thoughts:

Sometimes shots just won’t go down

Dallas as a team shot 39% from the floor over all, including 43% from inside the arc and 35% from beyond it. The Celtics play rangy defense, the shots wouldn’t fall for any player, and it’s really as simple as that.

There’s not much point in singling out players since we can all see the box score. I suppose it would make sense to get Seth Curry more looks but honestly in the flow of the game, there’s not much Dallas can do. Rick Carlisle preaches process and considering the team’s won 66% of their games, it’s best not to over react.

Kristaps Porzingis is doing his part

The shooting is going to come, it just will. One day he’s going to have 40 points on 21 shots and we’ll all guffaw. Everything else though, is rounding into form. His attacks off the dribble are incredible, he looks so much more calm than he did even two weeks ago. The post up moves! I’ve killed him for weeks for some of these attempts and tonight against the Celtics he put some of those complaints to bed.

The rim defense and the rebounding were top notch too. Records show he only had three blocks, but he altered many more. Just an outstanding game.

Justin Jackson, what would you say you do here?

It’s not fair to pick on one guy, I know that. I could talk about Brunson’s really strange fourth quarter turnovers or Tim Hardaway’s amazing ability to brick shot after shot. But instead I’m going to focus on Justin Jackson.

He’s 6’9” and put on a good amount of muscle this summer. He has basketball skills. But unless his three point shot is falling, he doesn’t do anything. Defensively he’s a mess and makes lazy gambles that are a key reason why he doesn’t play more. That he gets beat to the basket like he’s not even there is maddening enough, as he’s a big human. But what really gets me is some of the crap he does in defensive transition. There was one play in the third tonight where Jayson Tatum got a defensive board. For some reason, Jackson got a wild hair and tried to sneak in for a steal. Tatum saw and pushed and the resulting cross matches on defense (as I’m pretty sure Tatum was Jackson’s man) resulted in everyone on Dallas matching up with the wrong guy and Tatum buried an open three.

I’m sure he’ll have better moments. He’s had some this season, but that play was one of many small plays the entire team goofed on that resulted in them losing what was a winnable contest.

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