Alright, I think Mavs fans can all agree that after that 110-107 win against the Celtics, everyone needs to take one, long deep breath.
Okay, are we ready? Let’s start from the beginning.
It was all offense right away for both teams. Neither one was able to get a stop no matter how hard they tried (and they really didn’t try). After the first quarter, though, things tightened up and guys started taking some pride in getting stops.
The game was close for the first three and a half quarters, but then Jalen Brunson happened (more on that soon) and the Mavs pulled away. Until... Jalen Brunson happened again, and the Mavs relinquished the lead in the final minute (more on that later, also).
Ultimately, Jalen Brunson was done happening and Luka Doncic started to happen, and that’s how we’re here — examining a Mavs win. Here are three things from what can only be described as a horrible, excellent, worrisome, cathartic, exciting, nauseating Mavs win.
The lineups were... weird
No Kristaps Porzingis and no Maxi Kleber meant no talent on the frontline for the Mavs. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was forced to use a rotating trio of Dwight Powell, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Boban Marjanovic at the center position. It went about as well as you could’ve guessed.
Powell knows where to be and when to be there, but he’s just not the guy he was pre-injury. Cauley-Stein had a couple of dunks and also a couple of plays that make you put your hands over your face (like when he somehow missed a wide-open rebound). And Boban was... Boban. He was a target on defense that the Celtics were feasting on, but he hauled in some nice boards and made a couple of baskets around the rim.
The weird lineup stuff didn’t stop at the center position for the Mavs, though. Carlisle decided to role with Dorian Finney-Smith (0 points on 0-of-5 shooting from the field) down the stretch instead of Josh Richardson. I get that Dorian is Rick’s guy, and Rick probably wanted DFS guarding Tatum on the other end of the court, but it was still a choice that I can only describe as poor. Richardson needed to be out there.
Jalen Brunson saved the day and then ruined the day
Jalen Brunson’s fourth-quarter antics were not for the faint of heart. You can take that in both a good and a bad way because Brunson managed to accomplish both things down the stretch.
If it wasn’t for Jalen’s offensive outburst in the fourth quarter, the Mavs never would’ve developed a lead big enough to lose tragically in the final minutes. He was knocking down threes and getting to the rim. But then, in the final few possessions, Brunson went rogue and it was bad.
On back-to-back possessions, he committed a sloppy turnover off a poorly-thought-out drive, and then missed an ill-advised three-point attempt.
If anyone should be thanking Luka for his late-game heroics, it’s Jalen Brunson. All attention is now off of whatever that final minute of basketball was from him.
Luka Doncic. Onions.
Luka was magnificent all game. He did a nice job of picking his spots on offense, shooting from deep when necessary, carving up the Celtics’ defense to get his shooters open looks, and getting to the rim at will.
It would’ve been a nice Luka game before the final 30 seconds, but the final 30 seconds are what shifted this from a nice Luka game to The Luka Game.
With roughly 30 seconds left, the Mavs were down by one point and the ball was in Luka’s hands, only... it wasn’t pretty. Luka was doing all he could to get by Jaylen Brown and get to the rim, but nothing worked. Brown had the clamps on him. Finally, Doncic wisely forced a switch, putting the much slower Daniel Theis on him with the shot clock winding down. Finally, Luka hit Theis with a crafty move that created some space and subsequently buried the three in his face. Mavs up two.
The Celtics got an easy layup after a timeout to tie the game back up with less than 10 seconds to play.
Dallas was out of timeouts, but it didn’t matter. Luka had the ball in his hands and was coming down the court, ready for another heroic moment in Dallas, and he delivered. Man, oh man, did he deliver. Check it out:
You know you’re doing something right when you’re fading out of bounds, holding your follow-through on a 28-footer, and everyone knows the ball is going in. What a shot. What a moment.