20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Celtics Take Big Early Lead, Rout Mavericks in Game One of the NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics did not accidentally post a 64-18 regular season record, nor did they just stumble to a 12-2 record in the Eastern Conference playoffs; they are big, deep, and versatile--and with Kristaps Porzingis back in the fold they are now at full strength. Prior to game one of the NBA Finals, it was fashionable in some quarters to pick the Dallas Mavericks based on the notion that the Mavericks navigated a tougher postseason journey thus far--but in game one the Celtics asserted their dominance early, and they dominated most of the game en route to a 107-89 win. It is also fashionable to call game one a "feel out" game, but the reality is that the winner of game one of the NBA Finals has captured the championship 70% of the time.  

Six Celtics scored in double figures, led by Jaylen Brown's 22 points on 7-12 field goal shooting. Brown also had six rebounds, three steals, three blocked shots, and two assists. Porzingis had a sensational return to action after missing the last 10 games due to a calf injury, scoring 20 points on 8-13 field goal shooting in 21 minutes off of the bench. He added six rebounds and three blocked shots. Jayson Tatum had a quiet offensive game by his lofty standards (16 points on 6-16 field goal shooting, game-high six turnovers), but he posted game-high totals in rebounds (11) and assists (five). Derrick White (15 points, five assists) and Jrue Holiday (12 points, eight rebounds, five assists, game-best +22 plus/minus number) made significant contributions at both ends of the court.

Luka Doncic scored a game-high 30 points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, but the Celtics can live with Doncic shooting 12-26 from the field and posting just one assist versus four turnovers. P.J. Washington was Dallas' second leading scorer with 14 points, and the Celtics can live with that as well--which is not to say that Washington played poorly, but just to note that the Mavericks are not going to win many playoff games when Washington is their second leading scorer with just 14 points. Jaden Hardy had 13 points in 11 minutes, but he scored 11 of those points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter with the outcome of the game long decided. The Kyrie Irving redemption stories will have to be put on hold for at least one more game, as Irving finished with 12 points on 6-19 field goal shooting along with two assists and three turnovers. Irving did not make a three pointer and he did not attempt a free throw.

Porzingis scored 11 first quarter points on 4-5 field goal shooting while also snaring three rebounds and blocking two shots. The Celtics built the largest first quarter lead in NBA Finals history, 37-20, while shooting 13-23 (.565) from the field and holding the Mavericks to 9-24 (.375) field goal shooting. The Celtics pushed the margin to 29 (58-29) at the 4:11 mark of the second quarter before the Mavericks closed the first half with a 13-5 run to pull within 63-42 at halftime.

Doncic outscored the Celtics 10-9 during the first 7:32 of the third quarter as the Mavericks slashed the deficit to 72-64, but then Tatum and Brown steadied the ship by attacking the hoop on offense. Brown also asserted himself defensively. The first eight minutes or so of the third quarter were the Celtics at their worst, jacking up three pointers and not playing high energy defense, but that proved to be just a brief interlude in the middle of 40 minutes of dominance.

Doncic is so skilled that he can score at least 25-30 points versus any defense, but the Celtics are able to match up one on one with Doncic and Irving, which makes it difficult for the Mavericks to create the lob opportunities and open three pointers that they feasted on when opposing teams trapped Doncic and Irving during their three previous playoff series. The Celtics not only match up well with Doncic and Irving but they also have several perimeter players who can expose Doncic and Irving defensively.

In my series preview I declared, "Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are an even better two-way duo than Doncic and Irving, and Boston has the NBA's best, most versatile starting lineup." The Tatum-Brown duo is collectively bigger than the Doncic-Irving duo, and the Tatum-Brown duo significantly impacts the game at both ends of the court while the Doncic-Irving duo primarily impacts the game on offense.

NBA playoff series are decided by matchups, not momentum. Game two starts 0-0, not 107-89, and the outcome of that game will be determined by the extent to which the Celtics exploit their matchup advantages; if they attack the hoop on offense and defend the paint on defense, they will beat the Mavericks--but if they jack up three pointers early in the shot clock and play with low energy defensively then they will give the Mavericks a chance to steal homecourt advantage. The Celtics took a 2-1 advantage in the 2022 NBA Finals only to lose game four to the Golden State Warriors and then fall in six games. The Celtics enjoyed similar matchup advantages versus the Warriors that they enjoy now versus the Mavericks, but they did not relentlessly exploit those matchup advantages in 2022; it will be interesting to see if they have learned from that painful lesson.

Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 11:39 PM



Post a Comment

<< Home