Celtics take 1-0 NBA Finals lead on Mavericks

Per Boston.com:

In just of matter of minutes, Kristaps Porzingis quelled any questions and concerns about how effective he could be in his first game back from a calf injury.

The Celtics’ star big made plays on both ends of the court in the first quarter of Game 1, scoring 11 points to go with two blocks in the opening frame of Thursday’s 107-89 win. He wound up finishing with 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting to go with six rebounds and two blocks in just 21 minutes of action.

Even though Porzingis was quite effective on Thursday, even he had some questions on just how good he could be after missing the last 10 games due to a soleus strain in his calf. Porzingis hesitated Tuesday when asked if he was 100 percent, admitting Thursday that he wasn’t sure how his calf would feel in Game 1.

“I want to say I’m fine, but obviously, I haven’t played,” Porzingis told reporters. I haven’t had the feel of like, ‘Am I 100 percent?’ But tonight was an affirmation that I’m pretty good. Maybe I’m not perfect, but I’m pretty good and I can play like this. I can definitely add to this team.”

Per the Boston Globe:

As he entered the media room after the Mavericks’ Game 1 loss to the Celtics, one of his worst playoff performances in recent years, Kyrie Irving kept things light. He dribbled a basketball into the press conference and feigned like he was going to hand it to a media staffer before keeping hold of it, joking: “I need [the ball] right now. Didn’t shoot particularly well tonight.”

“Man, this is the best time of the year to be playing,” Irving said after Dallas fell, 107-89, to open the NBA Finals. “There’s two teams left, let’s put it in perspective. The environment’s going to be what it is, but my focus is on our game plan, making sure my guys feel confident and I feel confident and continue to shoot great shots.”

Irving finished with just 12 points on 6 of 19 shooting, missing all five 3-pointers he took. Irving heard loud boos every time he touched the ball and louder cheers on all 13 misses. It was his worst playoff shooting night (taking at least 10 shots) since his infamous final game as a Celtic, when he shot a paltry 6 of 21 in a blowout Game 5 loss to the Bucks in the second round of the 2019 postseason before bolting for Brooklyn.

Per the Boston Globe:

Jaylen Brown, meanwhile, picked up where he left off in the conference finals, in which he won series MVP. He finished with 22 points and six rebounds which sounds unremarkable, but his impact was hard to overstate.

Off the opening tip, Brown hit the floor and salvaged the first possession for the Celtics. He guarded Luka Doncic and played excellent 1-on-1 defense against the Mavericks star. He made numerous hustle plays, blocked three shots, and picked off three steals. When the Mavericks cut into the lead in the third quarter (more on this in a minute), Brown was the driving force (pun somewhat intended) as they pushed the lead back up.

“What you saw tonight is kind of the challenge he took for himself coming into the year,” Joe Mazzulla said. “Not wanting to be defined by one thing. Wanting to make plays. Wanted to be a well-rounded player and get better and better. So his spacing, his ball movement, his defense on ball and off ball.”

Per the Dallas Morning News:

And the Celtics’ fans did their part, too. Booing Irving every time he touched the ball, for both his failure to make an impact in Boston and his stomping on the leprechaun at midcourt during a Brooklyn playoff series a few years back, they got their money’s worth. Irving had 12 points, going 6-of-19 while missing all five 3-point tries in the contest.

Doncic led everyone with 30, as you might expect, but his 12-for-26 night was far from special by his standards, and his one assist gives an indication of how others were shooting and how disjointed this team seemed for much of the evening. Boston’s 37-20 lead after one quarter told most of the story as all five Celtics starters plus Porzingis scored in double-figures led by Jaylen Brown’s 22.

By the end, Boston’s 38% from 3-point range was not far from their norm, so it’s not as if the Mavericks can’t expect similar performances the rest of the way. Maybe the scariest thing for Dallas is that the Celtics played exemplary defense against Irving — much of it from specialist Jrue Holiday — and you would expect that to continue. Oklahoma City kept Irving in check in the second-round series and the Celtics have the same depth of talented defensive perimeter players along with much greater scoring ability.

Author: Inside Hoops

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