In a game that was a true test for both teams, the Celtics came out on top vs. Mavericks 116-106. It was close battle that featured the Celtics taking an early lead with the Mavericks never falling down until the last three minutes of the game. It also featured two of the best young players having horrendous shooting nights; probably the worst of their careers.
This was the first game without Gordon Hayward for the Celtics and it was against a Mavericks team that can score at any given moment. Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart would whether that storm and cause the lead to be too much for the Mavericks. Walker’s huge second half that included multiple three’s and making guys look unable to defend was the biggest factor in the win. He hit three of his eight three-pointers in the last five minutes of regulation to ice the game. His up-tempo style of play and dagger’s from deep were a huge reason why the Celtics pulled off the victory.
There are two other players that won this game for the Celtics; Brown and Smart. Both guys played some of their best games this season on offense and defense. Brown had another spectacular night on offense, scoring 25 points on 16 shots and grabbing 11 rebounds. Next to Hayward, he is the most improved player on the Celtics and not just for scoring reasons. Brown is able to control his game, actually dribble the ball and make the right play and shot. Last year he was careless and all over the place, he did a complete 180 this season. Smart keeps on proving he is the most valuable player on this team. He sets the pace defensively and held Doncic to a minimum when he was guarding him. That goes the same for Smart when guarding Porzingis. He loves the challenge, and now he can shoot, especially from three.
The Mavericks got help from the bench that kept the team in the game for as long as they can. Jalen Brunson, Dwight Powell and Delon Wright killed the Celtics in the paint and helped Doncic when he would get double-teamed. Max Kleber also hit key three-pointers from the corner that the Celtics struggled to defend. Doncic had usual numbers, despite scoring seven garbage-time points in the last three minutes when the lead was up to double-digits. However Doncic wasn’t able to take over from three-point range like he normally would (3/10 from deep) and as a result didn’t make the Celtics pay.
The biggest reason why the Mavericks lost though was because of Porzingis who had an abysmal night. When he was on the floor he couldn’t score or defend a soul. Got beat time and time again by his defender and couldn’t post up guys like Smart or Tatum. He was a total non-factor and when he on the floor, the team suffered. So it was no surprise to anyone, including Porzingis, that he was out of the game for the last 10 minutes. He hasn’t found a way to fit with the Mavericks yet, and whether that has to do with his play or not being in shape no one knows at this moment. Something needs to change soon though in order to have a clue what the Mavericks should do.
Another guy who had a horrendous shooting night was Tatum, who made one shot out 18 (1/18). Yes, that is correct, 1/18 from the field with tons of missed layups. It wasn’t his night shooting the ball after shooting well over 45 percent for the last five games. Tatum was improving his shot, but now it’s down to 39 percent on the season. However, Tatum was a plus-16 in the game last night. Why? Well, simply because he was a very good defender and still grabbed eight rebounds and four assists. Tatum was disgustingly-bad shooting the ball, but his all-around game is better than people give him credit for.
What this game told me is the Celtics are the real-deal, their chemistry in unreal. It’s only a small sample size, but they have won games in multiple ways with guys who are rookies or haven’t proven themselves yet. The job that Stevens has done with this team is nothing short of phenomenal. Guys like Jevonta Green, Rob Williams, Daniel Theis, Brad Wanamaker and Grant Williams have done a great job in the roles that they have been given. The Mavericks have some things to work out, but overall they look solid as well. They have multiple play-makers that can help take the responsibility off of Doncic. Tim Hardaway Jr, Wright, Brunson and Powell are great pieces coming off the bench. Dorian Finney-Smith, Seth Curry and Kleber are also complimentary pieces for this Mavericks team. Now it’s just up to Rick Carsisle and Doncic to figure out a way how to make Porzingis a positive on the court. That has been the biggest struggle, and the mix of Doncic and Porzingis seems a bit forced right now.