NBA Finals: 5 biggest takeaways from Game 4 of Cel

发布时间:2024-06-17 01:11

NBA Finals: 5 takeaways as Mavericks rout Celtics to force Game 5

Luka Doncic sets the tone with a 25-point 1st half and finally gets some help to send the NBA Finals back to Boston.

Shaun Powell

Shaun Powell


June 15, 2024 5:15 AM

Behind Luka Doncic's big 1st half, the Mavericks thump the Celtics to stave off elimination and force a Game 5.

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DALLAS — A sweep? As it turned out, beating the Dallas Mavericks four straight was a bit of a leap.

What the Boston Celtics found Friday was a Mavericks team that seared through the Western Conference playoffs, toppling higher seeds along the way, using a distraction-free and locked-in Luka Doncic, some Kyrie Irving and … help. Finally.

Therefore, the 2024 NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV will last another game, at least, because that Dallas team finally showed up.

It came as a disappointment to hundreds — thousands? — of Celtics fans who made the trip and gobbled up tickets at American Airlines Center in anticipation of an 18th title, and certainly to the Celtics themselves.

That’s because the Celtics missed shots, fell behind early, never mustered a rally and hardly showed the flex of a team with the league’s best record. Their previous – and only – two losses this postseason were similar whiffs.

It was Mavericks 122, Celtics 84, a margin inflated and influenced by nearly 15 minutes of lopsided and meaningless garbage time. The benches were cleared late in the third quarter, an unusual time for white flag waving in a Finals game.

Not only did the wipeout keep the Mavs and the series alive, but consider this: Dallas has outplayed Boston over the last five quarters.

Suspense for the series?

We’ll see Monday in Boston (8:30 ET, ABC).

Here are five takeaways from the Mavericks’ series-saving Game 4 victory:

1. Celtics missing killer instinct

Pump the brakes a bit on the notion of the 2023-24 Celtics being one of the best teams in NBA history. While a handful of past champions did suffer collapses — the 1985 Lakers had The Memorial Day Massacre, a 34-point spanking courtesy of the Celtics — most managed to snap back quickly.

That’s the upcoming test for these Celtics. Because Game 4 was a complete no-show. They barely competed or showed a sense of urgency, and in a few ways, this was somewhat understandable.

It’s hard to close out a team on its home court.

And it’s human nature to relax a bit with such a commanding series lead and history on your side — no team ever blew such an advantage in a best-of-seven.

Still, it was weird. Jrue Holiday finally committing a turnover in this series (he had five!), the Celtics shooting 36%, trailing 61-35 at halftime and all the starters watching from the bench by late third quarter.

The Celtics’ effort?

“It wasn’t as good as Dallas,” admitted coach Joe Mazzulla.

One team was desperate. The other was … less so.

“The hardest thing to do in this league is to close the door against a group that has nothing to lose,” said Mavs coach Jason Kidd. “I think when you talk about the record or the series is 3-0, somewhere in this game, there’s going to be a point where either team is going to have to make a stand or they let go of the rope. They let go of the rope pretty early.”

2. Mavs get buckets instead of bricks

This outcome was decidedly and heavily influenced by Doncic’s hot start.

Perhaps fueled by a desire to atone for mistakes made in Game 3 when he fouled out and was victimized defensively, Doncic was the tone-setter. His 25 points and four assists and respectable defense made for the finest first-half display by anyone in this series.

But truthfully, that wasn’t much of a revelation.

The Mavericks lending him a hand? That was the surprise, a refreshing one for Dallas.

They scored on dunks off lobs — the half-court heave from Luka to Daniel Gafford was poetry — and managed to hit open 3-pointers. The Mavs made half their shots, 40% from deep.

And Dante Exum gave them a lift off the bench whenever he replaced Doncic and ran the offense.

“We had to play our A game,” Kidd said. “It was this or we go on vacation. I thought the group did a great job of not pressing, letting the game happen. The flow was there.”

3. Tough night for Tatum

Not to pile on, not to single out one player on a night where many turned to vapor, not to suggest any of that — but Jayson Tatum failed to distinguish himself in a setting that was made for him.

One: It was an elimination game.

Two: A championship was on the line and Tatum, by his own admission, expressed how important it was for him to grab a trophy and align himself with Celtic greats.

Three: A great Game 4 performance would’ve given him a chance for the Finals MVP.

All of the above may eventually tip in Tatum’s favor. It just wasn’t in the cards Friday, when he had four fouls, four baskets and three turnovers. He was a minus-33. He seemed bothered by the calls that went against him — not to the same degree as Luka in Game 3, but still — and never generated any momentum for himself or his team.

The Celtics are deep enough to win another game without much from Tatum; such was the case in the first two games. That said, Tatum could use a bounce-back, if only to shake free of the Finals funk that has followed him from 2022. He has only shot better than 37% in one of these four games.

Again: Tatum hasn’t been horrible in this series. He just hasn’t been next-level, like the Celtic greats in these championship situations — Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Dave Cowens, Kevin McHale, etc.

At least not yet.

“I’m not making any excuses,” Tatum said. “We’ve got to be a lot better.”

4. On second thought, no Kristaps Porzingis

He did a few drills before the game, spoke to the medical and performance staff, was declared active by coach Joe Mazzulla … and never left the bench.

The 7-foot-3 center who dusted off rust from missing over a month and produced big at both ends in the first two games of the Finals, only to get injured again, missed a second straight game with a leg injury.

Porzingis probably wasn’t going to get playing time unless the game begged for him. But once the Celtics fell behind big, he stayed put. Better to give him a few more days between now and Game 5.

Mazzulla said he was only going to use Porzingis in “very specific instances if necessary.”

The Celtics lost by 38. It wasn’t necessary.

Without Porzingis, the Mavericks finally took advantage. Dereck Lively II, whose biggest surprise was drilling a corner 3-pointer, was beastly on the boards. He out-hustled Boston for offensive put-backs and essentially being the most impactful big man on the floor.

“We have to be more active and make sure that we’re a little more aware of him,” Al Horford said.

The Mavs had a 52-31 rebounding advantage. None of the Boston big men blocked a shot, reflective of the lack of rim protection.

“They were really concentrating on attacking the offensive glass,” Tatum said. “They came out super aggressive.”

Porzingis received a rousing applause at TD Garden when he took the floor. Expect the same response Monday if he resurfaces, not only from fans but also teammates.

5. Do the last five quarters mean anything?

For what it’s worth, the Mavericks have outscored the Celtics 151-105 in the last five quarters.

Again: For what it’s worth.

Does this mean the Mavericks have flipped the script, seized control and the Finals are about to do an about-face after what transpired in the first two-plus games?

The truth is perhaps in the middle. This series isn’t as lopsided as a 3-1 lead might suggest, if only because Dallas had a chance to win at least one of those games it lost.

“We don’t dismiss it,” Jaylen Brown said. “We’re going to learn from it. We’re going to see how and why, exactly where the game was won and lost. And then we take those experiences and then we come out and we play like our life depends on it. Because it does.”

But the series is 3-1. And it’s going back to Boston. Advantage is still with the Celtics.

“We handled our business tonight but the job is still an uphill battle,” Irving said.

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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