The Dallas Mavericks hang on late against the Boston Celtics, winning 113-108. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 36 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Jayson Tatum scored 25 in defeat for Boston.
Things opened great for the Mavericks, with scoring distributed throughout the team. Dallas had a few early chances to pile on their strong offensive start but were unable to build a double digit lead. The reserves allowed the Celtics to inch back into the game after the Mavericks took a 14-7 lead, but strong defensive play from Kristaps Porzingis resulted in good baskets for Dallas on the other end and they rebuilt the lead up to 22-16. The Mavericks pushed the lead up to 10 with two minutes left in the quarter, but sloppy offensive play allowed the Celtics to pull within five. Dallas took a 30-25 lead into the second quarter.
The five point lead steadily grew for Dallas in the next frame. Hot three point shooting from everyone, led by Doncic, put the Celtics on their heels. Boston just couldn’t find the touch or much of a pulse in the second quarter and the Mavericks punished them repeatedly. Despite some late lapses and fast break points from the Celtics, 13 first half threes powered the Mavericks to a 64-45 lead at half time.
Despite looking asleep for the first half of the frame, the Celtics finally came alive in the final six minutes of the quarter, pushing off of Dallas misses and scoring in transition. But the Dallas offensive machine managed to keep the Celtics at bay just so, hitting timely threes or scoring in the lane. Jayson Tatum came on late but a Tim Hardaway Jr. three on the final Dallas possession allowed the Mavericks to take a 90-75 lead into the fourth.
Of course, things went wonky for the Mavericks early in the fourth, allowing Boston to cut the lead down to single digits in the first three minutes of the frame. Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic sat chunks of the quarter as the Dallas lead slowly evaporated. Doncic managed to pick up a technical after an offensive foul and the Celtics cut the lead down to seven. Dorian Finney-Smith responded with an open wing three and Brunson took a charge from Tatum, then Tatum got a three seconds in the paint call as the Mavericks held a 10 point lead for multiple possessions. Yet the Celtics kept coming, getting the lead down to six. But Boston was unable to connect on multiple looks down the stretch and despite making it insanely close late due to Dallas mistakes, the Mavericks walk away with a 113-108 win.
Now, some thoughts
Three point makes were the difference in the game
The Mavericks were absolutely on fire, connecting on 19-of-39 from beyond the arc, whereas the Celtics hit 11-of-45. That plus-24 margin made up the difference in a game where the Celtics tried to come all the way back in the fourth down 15. Dallas played a tremendously bad fourth quarter, with turnovers, bad offense, and strange substitutions from Rick Carlisle. The three pointers were just enough to help the Mavericks escape.
Josh Richardson has to do more
Richardson is an off guard who’s been more off than on lately and it’s starting to drive me crazy. He had a box score stuffing game, scoring eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, grabbing six boards, and dishing four assists. But he also had three turnovers and for a guy who doesn’t handle that much, he has to do better. Luka Doncic gets a bigger pass since he handles the ball so much (though his eight turnovers were terrible in their own right), but Richardson has been in quicksand for a number of games now. He’s got to shake the funk and start connecting on his shots, otherwise he’s not doing enough to warrant the minutes he’s getting.
Kristaps Porzingis looks like a different man on defense in March
The defense Dallas played in the first half and up until Boston woke up in the third quarter was fairly inspired. And that was led by terrific effort by Porzingis both at the rim and patrolling the paint.
I’ve been on hard on Porzingis because he’s capable of more and there’s a list of reasons why he’s not played this way the entire time. The fact that he’s moving at all is great to see; he’s so big when he decides to move around the lane and disrupt the flow of the other team’s drives with his length, the results are obvious to see.
Carlisle keeping him out for what had to be minute restriction reasons in the fourth nearly cost Dallas the game, but the broader point is he can get away with having an inefficient offensive night (just 6-for-15 and 19 points) if he’s going to menace on the other end. I just really liked watching him play.
Bonus thought: Make your free throws
18-of-25 isn’t going to cut it for the Mavericks. Doncic missed four by himself, Maxi Kleber missed one, and Porzingis missed two. Glad it didn’t bite them.