The Dallas Mavericks beat the Boston Celtics at home Saturday night, 107-104. Luka Doncic scored 33, grabbed nine rebounds, dished five assists and hit the game winning shot with less than a second remaining. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics in defeat with 32 points.
With Kristaps Porzingis returning from a five game absence, the Dallas Mavericks rolled out their season opening starting line up. The Mavericks opened the game firing on all cylinders, jumping out to a 6-0 lead forcing a Boston Celtics timeout. All five Dallas players scored from the field early, including Dorian Finney-Smith, who got an early three pointer to fall. Reggie Bullock came in off the bench to hit an early three as well and Boston simply struggled to score early, scoring just 11 points in the first 10 minutes of action. Jalen Brunson scored a couple of beautiful baskets late to carry the Mavericks to a 29-15 lead after twelve minutes of action.
Frank Ntilikina connected on a pair of long jumpers to start the Dallas scoring in the second, but the Celtics finally woke up in the second and hit a number of tough shots over Dallas defenders. While Boston found their scoring touch, they were unable to keep track of Brunson, who kept Dallas ahead by double digits with a variety of scores off drives. The strong bench play allowed Doncic to get a long rest on the bench. Boston managed to trim the Maverick lead to single digits, but Doncic answered back with a pair of free throws and a long jumper. A Brunson drive, two Doncic threes, and a Brunson three gave Dallas a 19 point lead with under a minute to go. The Mavericks ended up leading 57-40 at the half.
Sloppy offensive play from Dallas paired with Tatum attacking and scoring allowed Boston to cut the lead to 10 points by the 8:30 mark of the quarter. The Maverick offense stayed ugly while the Celtics chipped and chipped, cutting the Dallas lead to two at the six minute mark, forcing a timeout. Doncic put an end to a five minute scoring drought with a short floater, then the Celtics turned it over resulting in a Bullock dunk. Led by a strong offensive effort from Luka, Dallas built the lead back to 10 with about two minutes remaining. The offense got somewhat sloppy again down the stretch, but Dallas entered the fourth up 79-72.
The Celtics cut the Dallas lead down to two almost immediately, but a Bullock three and a Porzingis dunk kept the Mavericks in front. Boston again closed it to two points but a three shot possession aided by strong offensive rebounding from Porzingis resulted in another Bullock three. The Celtics failed to answer and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored on the break to give Dallas a seven point cushion. Boston then turned up the defensive pressure, forcing the ball out of Doncic’s hands on every possession. Other Mavericks failed to deliver and the Celtics ground all the way back to two points again with 4:30 remaining. The Celtics just kept coming, repeatedly cutting it to one point, then the Mavericks would answer. Boston finally took their first lead of the game on a Marcus Smart three. Porzingis tied it at 104 with a tip dunk. Neither team could score down the final 90 seconds, but after a bad Marcus Smart foul, Doncic ended the game with a back breaking three pointer over half the Celtic roster. The Dallas Mavericks walk away with a 107-104 victory.
Now, some thoughts
That was the first game in which the Mavericks felt in control for most of the contest
It took nine games, but that was the first game in which Dallas really exerted their will for significant minutes. That feeling was aided by the fact that the Mavericks scored 57 points rather easily in the first half. The shot making, at least early on, played a key role with Dorian Finney-Smith finding his touch. The existence of Kristaps Porzingis also helped things considerably, even if the offense looked bizarre at times.
There’s still quite a ways to go, as Dallas still missed a lot of open looks. But this feels like the kind of win to build on.
It’s good to see Porzingis
Unless something insane happens, we’ve all got to accept the fact that Kristaps Porzingis is the skeleton key to unlocking how well this team can play. He still does a number of weird things offensively, as I don’t think he’s confident playing off ball yet in terms of movement. But he brings so much to the table that Dallas needs. His offensive rebounding alone is worth the price of admission, but his attacking the rim is extremely valuable.
Defensively, it’s refreshing to see his movement compared to the way Dallas has been beat the last several games.
Here’s hoping he stays healthy.
Dallas needs more ball handlers
Things got very hairy in the fourth with the pressure the Celtics put on Luka Doncic and anyone else handling the ball. In fact there was one possession where Dorian Finney-Smith brought the ball up the floor under pressure and that is another thing that shouldn’t happen in the multiverse. Coach Jason Kidd left Doncic out there by his lonesome a little too long as the only ball handler and Dallas couldn’t convert the various mismatch situations.
Jalen Brunson helped a great deal, as he should, but he’s about the only other player who can handle a second defender coming at him 60 feet from the basket. The way to beat Dallas is to get the ball out of Doncic’s hands, which means other guys need to take advantage if put in a situation to attack four on three or three on two situation.
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