Celtics’ Team Effort More Than Mavericks Can Handle as Boston Takes 2–0 Lead in NBA Finals

Celtics’ Team Effort More Than Mavericks Can Handle as Boston Takes 2–0 Lead in NBA Finals

Sandwiched by Dallas Mavericks defenders Luka Doncic (L) and P.J. Washington, Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown looks to make a play during Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Boston on June 9, 2024. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

6/9/2024

Updated: 6/10/2024

0

BOSTON—Jrue Holiday led the scoring. Derrick White added a chase-down block. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown pitched in, too—with their passing and defense.
The Dallas Mavericks can stop worrying about who Boston’s best player is. Everyone is contributing to the Celtics’ quest for an unprecedented 18th NBA championship.
Holiday had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and White sprinted down the court to swat away the Mavericks’ last chance on Sunday night, June 9, as Boston beat Dallas 105–98 to take a 2–0 series lead in the NBA Finals.
Tatum made up for a rough shooting night with 12 assists and nine rebounds to go with his 18 points. Brown scored 21 with three steals, White had 18 points and three steals, and Peyton Pritchard’s only basket of the game was a banked half-courter to beat the third-quarter buzzer and give Boston an 83–74 lead.
“That’s why they are the No. 1 team in the NBA with the No. 1 record,” said Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who scored 32 points with 11 rebounds and 11 assists—the first NBA Finals triple-double in Dallas franchise history. “They have a lot of great players. Basically, anybody can [go] off.”
Doncic, who was listed as questionable to play less than two hours before the opening tipoff, had his 10th career playoff triple-double. He scored only three points in the fourth quarter, however, converting a three-point play with 1:15 left as Dallas scored nine in a row to cut a 14-point deficit to 103–98.
After Derrick Jones Jr. blocked Tatum’s dunk attempt, White ran down the court, joining with Brown to block P.J. Washington’s potential dunk. Brown made a layup at the other end, and then Doncic missed a one-footed, running floater from 3-point range with 28 seconds left, ending Dallas’ last chance at a comeback.
“It’s not all on him. It’s a team,” Dallas Coach Jason Kidd said of Doncic, who had been battling chest, knee, and ankle injuries. “He put us in position. He was really good tonight. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get over the hump. We’ve got to find someone to join Luka and [Kyrie Irving] in that scoring category.”
Games 3 and 4 are set for Wednesday and Friday in Dallas. Boston has not lost on the road this postseason.
It marked the ninth time the Celtics have won the opening two games in the NBA Finals. They have gone on to win the previous eight such series, and have not been forced to a Game 7 in any of them.
A day after Mr. Kidd apparently attempted to sow dissension in the Celtics’ locker room by calling Brown—not All-NBA first-team selection Tatum—the team’s best player, Boston showed why it doesn’t matter. The two all-stars combined to make just two of 12 shots from 3-point range, but filled up the box score in other ways.
“How they play together is sacred, and something that can’t be broken,” Holiday said. “I don’t prefer one or the other. I prefer both, because they’re both superstars, and they’re showing it on the biggest stage in the world.”
Kristaps Porzingis limped his way to 12 points for top-seeded Boston. Tatum was six for 22 shooting and one of 7 from 3-point range. The Celtics were 10 for 39 from long distance overall.
“I’m really tired of hearing about one guy or this guy or that guy and everybody trying to make it out to be anything other than Celtic basketball,” Boston Coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Everybody that stepped on that court today made winning plays on both ends of the floor.”
Stars Jayson Tatum (L) of the Celtics and Luka Doncic of the Mavericks go head-to-head during Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Boston on June 9, 2024. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

Stars Jayson Tatum (L) of the Celtics and Luka Doncic of the Mavericks go head-to-head during Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Boston on June 9, 2024. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

Unlike their 107–89 victory in Game 1, when Boston went seven for 15 from 3-point range in the first quarter to sprint to a 17-point lead, the Celtics missed their first eight attempts from long range on Sunday. Dallas led the entire first quarter.
Tatum was scoreless in the first and had only five points at halftime, when he was still 0 for 3 from 3-point range. Boston was just five for 30 from long distance when Pritchard banked in a half-court shot at the third-quarter buzzer to put Boston up by nine.
That excited the crowd, which previously had spent most of its time serenading Irving with boos—and semi-vulgar chants. Before the game, the scoreboard showed Irving’s postgame quote from Game 1, where he said he thought the crowd would be louder.
The fans roared.
Irving, who scored 16 points, has lost 12 games in a row against the Celtics.
“A little disappointed in myself not being able to convert a lot more of my opportunities in the lane,” Irving said. “My teammates look for me to convert a lot of shots and lessen the burden not only on Luka but the entire team.”
By Jimmy Golen
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