4 observations after the Boston Celtics blow out the Dallas Mavericks, 107-89

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, losing 107-89. Kristaps Porzingis led a balanced effort from the Celtics, scoring 20 points off the bench. Luka Doncic led Dallas in defeat with 30 points.

The NBA Finals started with hot shooting, with the two teams trading baskets and leads. Kyrie Irving scored four early points for Dallas while Al Horford scored twice. Following a Celtics timeout, fans got their first look at Kristaps Porzingis coming off the bench. Derrick White connected on back-to-back threes to give Boston a cushion. The teams traded scoreless possessions for several minutes with the Celtics holding a 24-18 lead. A Porzingis dunk and jumper gave Boston a 10-point lead and forced a Dallas timeout. Jaden Hardy scored off a broken play but the Celtics responded with three threes in a row to break the game open. Boston led 37-20 after one quarter.

Kyrie ended a 23-5 Celtics run with a lefty floater to start the second period. The Celtics kept attacking Dallas, driving and kicking while Mavericks struggled to score the ball. Porzingis remained unconscious in the second and connected on contested jumpers to extend the Boston lead to 21. Following a timeout, Dallas head coach Jason Kidd elected to go very small and the Celtics poured it on even more growing the lead to 29 points off Dallas turnovers. The Mavericks found the basket a few times to cut into the lead some, but the Celtics held a 63-42 lead at the half.

Dallas got the lead down to 18 points quickly to start the second half, but then went multiple possessions without a make, including some baffling miscues from Irving. But Irving finally righted the ship with a great layup. Washington then scored in transition to cut the Boston lead to 16 and forced a Celtics timeout. Dallas kept coming, nipping into the lead, then forcing a Boston miss. The Mavericks cut it to 16 and like that they found themselves down eight following Doncic’s second three-pointer of the quarter. After another Boston timeout, the Mavericks committed back-to-back travels and gave up an offensive rebound leading to a Porzingis dunk. Lively picked up his fourth and fifth fouls and like that, the Mavericks were down 16 again. Two more Celtics threes fell as Dallas struggled to find the bottom of the basket. Dallas trailed 86-66 after three quarters.

The final frame saw Dallas giving it about half the quarter to make a run before waving the white flag. The Mavericks got down by 25 halfway through the period and Kidd pulled Doncic and Irving. The benches cleared and the Celtics would eventually walk away with a 107-89 victory.

Assists, or lack thereof

While the Mavericks are not a particularly high-assist team, that they finished with more turnovers than assists should sound a loud alarm. Boston switched everything, which was a given coming into the series, but with Luka making drives and kicks, at some point, Dallas players are going to have to finish plays. This was a team-wide issue and watching the broadcast, we briefly saw Kidd’s speech emphasizing too much one-on-one play.

Kyrie Irving has to be a lot better

Irving was aggressive consistently in this game, looking for scoring chances and trying to make plays. Unfortunately, he was very ineffective 12 points on 6 of 19 from the floor. His missed threes (0-5) along with his unfortunate turnovers loomed large after the Mavericks managed to cut the Celtic’s lead to eight points in the third. Missed shots happen, but missed open shots were particularly frustrating to watch.

Dereck Lively II looked an awful lot like a rookie

Lively’s been so important to the Dallas Mavericks postseason run and this is the first time since the middle of the Oklahoma City Thunder series where he looked really off-kilter. He played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble, more than one of them the result of being just a bit too aggressive. I believe he’ll figure out his role in this series, he’s been that impressive this postseason with his growth from game to game. But Thursday night, he looked his age.

Look, we watched Porzingis for a long time. He was great in 2019-20 until he tore his meniscus in the NBA Bubble. He was never the same in Dallas after that and it’s pretty shocking to look at his lower body strength on those post-ups in this game after watching a stiff breeze unseat him in early 2022. It’s good for basketball that he’s healthy again, but maddening for Mavericks fans to watch a former player destroy them on the national stage. His play’s going to be key to this series and if Dallas can’t limit him, it might be a short one.

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