Sports

NBA insiders: The biggest questions from Game 2 between the Mavs and Celtics

The Boston Celtics took a 2-0 lead over the Dallas Mavericks after an exciting back-and-forth Game 2 in Boston, and now history is on their side. Teams leading 2-0 in the Finals are 31-5 all-time, and the Celtics have a 43-1 series record when leading a best-of-7 2-0 (their only loss was in the 2018 East finals).

Now the Mavericks will head to American Airlines Center for Games 3 and 4, where they are 5-3 so far during these playoffs.

After a slow start in the series opener, the Mavericks came out firing in Game 2, taking a 13-6 lead in the first quarter, their largest lead of the night before Boston took the lead in the second quarter.

Luka Doncic finished with 32 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds, marking his seventh triple-double this postseason — he’s now tied for the second most in NBA playoff history. But his eight turnovers marred Dallas’ efforts to tie the series as the Mavericks will look to bounce back Wednesday in Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Can Dallas make this a series? What were some of the biggest adjustments in Game 2? Our NBA insiders answer the biggest questions coming out of Game 2.

What was the biggest adjustment either team made from Game 1 to Game 2?

Dave McMenamin: Boston kept the ball in Jayson Tatum’s hands and he remained a willing passer, even if his shot wasn’t falling — going 6-for-22 after a 6-for-16 line in Game 1. It’s just that his teammates made more shots. After five assists Thursday, Tatum had 12 on Sunday — his high for this postseason. He picked apart the Mavs’ on-ball pressure by finding cutters (Jrue Holiday was a favorite target — going 10-for-13 with only three 3-point attempts) and spraying it out for 3 to keep Dallas honest from packing the paint (the Celtics hit just 10 3s after 16 in Game 1, but it didn’t hurt them because of their overall balance).

Brian Windhorst: The biggest adjustment was the Celtics trading for Kristaps Porzingis and Holiday last offseason. There wasn’t a significant difference between the games. Boston really hasn’t shot well since the first quarter of Game 1 and was poor again Sunday, but it is just a spectacularly well-rounded team. Those two huge additions have widened the Celtics’ margin for error immensely. Porzingis’ health going forward in the series obviously is a key factor.

Marc Spears: Doncic was much more aggressive from the beginning and finished with 23 points at half. Perhaps it was the knee that stymied him in Game 1, but the pregame announcement that he was questionable indicates he’s not feeling better. Still, Doncic hit a lot of tough one-legged shots, but it’s evident Doncic can’t do this on his own and needs help from Kyrie Irving and others to keep pace with the Celtics offensively. Should Tim Hardaway Jr., be dusted off?


Which player’s performance has been the most surprising (or disappointing) so far?

McMenamin: Dereck Lively II was so impactful on the Mavs’ run to the Finals that the value of his presence became even more pronounced when he missed Game 4 of the Western Conference finals with a neck strain and the Minnesota Timberwolves registered their one win of the series. His impact so far this series has been neutralized — scoring just four points through the first two games — and there were times he looked like the rookie that he is Sunday, like when he wildly saved a ball from going out of bounds only to ignite a Celtics fastbreak, and getting caught in no-man’s land on defense on too many possessions.

Windhorst: Irving. He’s been thrown off his great rhythm, in part because the Celtics’ combo of strong guards and length at the rim have closed his shooting windows. But he’s also bowed a bit to the Celtics crowd. He needled them after Game 1, saying they weren’t as loud as he expected, and he got caught going back and forth with fans a few times in Game 2. He looks like he’s a tad in his own head.

Spears: Holiday’s offensive explosion in Game 2 was a big surprise. I didn’t envision him being the leading scorer for the Celtics in any Finals games. It’s just a reminder that the defensive guru is an elite player on both ends and that the Celtics have myriad weapons offensively. Scary thought for the Mavs’ defense.


This series is headed for a sweep if___?

McMenamin: The Mavs’ shooting doesn’t swing back toward the mean at home. Dallas shot just 13-for-53 from 3 (24.5%) in Games 1 and 2 in Boston — this after averaging 12.3 made 3s per game for the postseason coming into Sunday. The Mavericks’ defense is doing an admirable job keeping a historically efficient Celtics offense in check. But if their offense doesn’t start holding up its end, this will be a quick series.

Windhorst: The Mavericks are having a lot of trouble creating good shots, and it’s killing their offense. The Celtics are doing a fabulous job dealing with Irving and Doncic straight up — a massive luxury that just squeezes the life out of Dallas’ offense. The Mavs got a few more looks at the rim in the third quarter, when Daniel Gafford got going in the pick-and-roll, but they’ve got to identify a few more sets that will apply any stress to Boston.

Spears: Sweep? Dallas is too talented and is going home for two games. The series doesn’t start until a team loses at home and Boston usually loses focus in one game every series. I’m entertaining the possibility, but there has to be some fight from Dallas … right?

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