Luka Doncic, even without playing in the fourth, led Dallas in scoring with 23 points, but the fun spot in the losing effort was the spark from rookie Jaden Hardy who was 5-for-7 from the floor and added 15 points off the bench. The Celtics had six players in double digits, but it was — who else — Jason Tatum who led the way with 29.
The Celtics, no doubt determined to put together a better showing than their abysmal outing against the Oklahoma City Thunder, were all over Dallas from the jump. After a two-point Dallas lead was usurped mid-way through the first quarter, it was all Boston until the final buzzer.
The Dallas rotation, worn thin by injuries, finally showed cracks. It was especially evident against a team like Boston with such a slew of dynamic wings, and Dallas was without their three best wing defenders, giving them little chance of containing Boston’s best players.
Must come down
We might be at the end of Luka Doncic’s absurd, scorcher of a run over the last two weeks. While he recorded a perfectly reasonable line of 23/3/9, it wasn’t enough to put Dallas over the top. It’s a theme this season, as the Mavs are just 2-9 when Doncic scores under 30 points.
Luka just seemed a bit off all night. He could often be seen coughing on the court, leading to speculation that he was perhaps a little under the weather, but assistant coach Jared Dudley said it was a hit to the chest that had Doncic unable to catch his breath. The four fouls he accumulated by the third also added to Luka just playing a bit more on the back foot.
Searching for shooters
The Maverick’s roster is designed for shooters. It needs shooters to function. It doesn’t matter who it is — Tim Hardaway Jr., Spencer Dinwiddie, and Christian Wood have all filled the role on various nights. Typically, if just one of those guys has it going along with Luka, Dallas has a shot. If TWO of those guys have it going, the Mavericks can run teams out of the gym. When the whole team is tossing up bricks, you get a game like tonight.
With Hardaway, Dinwiddie, and Wood shooting a collective 12-of-33 through the third quarter, coach Jason Kidd went deep into his bench looking for a spark.
Davis Bertans got an early run but didn’t have it tonight, going a quick 0-for-3 from deep. Kidd even turned to McKinley Wright and Hardy for some third quarter minutes. Hardy played with solid energy and hit all three threes he attempted, but nobody had the answer for Dallas’ 20-plus-point deficit.
The ongoing story with Reggie Bullock is that he is a perpetual slow starter. A guy who, once the calendar flips over to the new year, comes alive as a dead-eye three-point shooter. Well, two games into the new year and Bullock is still in preseason mode.
Tonight, he registered just a single shot attempt, a missed three, despite 37 minutes of action. The most obvious reason is his being asked to be the team's do-it-all defender, getting run ragged without anyone else to help against the league’s best wing players, of which the Celtics happen to have a couple.
The knock-on effect of getting Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Green back soon will hopefully be a more freed-up, less defensively handcuffed Bullock.
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