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NBA Finals: 5 Biggest Takeaways So Far

The Celtics are up 2-0 in the NBA Finals.

Last night the Celtics went up 2-0 in the NBA Finals with a 105-98 victory. With two massive wins early in the series the Celtics seem poised to win the title. They have been elite on both of the floor holding the Mavericks to under 100 points in both games while having a well-rounded offensive attack. Let’s dive into the biggest takeaways two games into the NBA Finals.

NBA Finals: 5 Biggest Takeaways So Far

The Celtics’ Balance Is Their Biggest Advantage

Balance has been key to their success and identity all season long. The combination of their elite offensive options and versatile defensive attack gives Boston incredible balance. This has particularly played to the Celtics’ advantage on the offensive end of the floor by having six capable creators and elite spacing. In Game 1 the Celtics broke the record for the most players (seven) to hit multiple threes in a finals game. The Celtics can overcome their stars having an off-night while the Mavericks need Luka Doncic to do everything just to have a chance in the game. Similarly last night the Celtics overcame an awful shooting night where they shot just 25 percent from three.

Jayson Tatum has struggled so far averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, 8.5 assists on .315/.285.750 shooting splits. Tatum’s shooting efficiency should be cause for concern however, he’s finding ways to make a positive impact as a playmaker, rebounder, and defender. Furthermore, the Celtics’ success with Tatum’s struggles highlights this team’s strength is their overall balance rather than any individual star. Jaylen Brown stepped up and scored 22 points in Game 1 while Jrue Holiday led the way with 26 in Game 2. Tatum spoke about his approach and unselfish play after the game.

In both games so far four Celtics have gotten at least 15 points compared to just three Mavericks. With Luka’s 30 points accounting for two of these and PJ Washington’s 17 points last night being the other. Defensively the Celtics’ versatile defense allows them to limit Kyrie Irving’s production and Luka’s playmaking. Their personnel allows for a switch-heavy approach that holds up against any Mavericks’ offensive creator. The Celtics have also been able to find holes in the Mavericks defense and attack smaller matchups.

The Celtics Have Limited The Mavericks’ Offensive Gameplan

Outside of limiting the Mavericks’ secondary scorers the Celtics have also made a clear effort to limit several important parts of Dallas’ offense. Most notably, the Celtics have limited the corner three. On the season the Mavericks averaged 11.3 corner threes a game and 10.8 in the playoffs however, in the finals the Mavs are attempting just four per game. This is consistent with the Celtics’ three-point defense strategy all season long they ranked 28th in opponent corner three attempts per game. Additionally, taking away the corner three makes Dallas’ role players especially Washington and Derrick Jones Jr. far less effective.

The Celtics have also limited Luka’s playmaking and lob threats. In Game 1 Luka had a career-low one assist. The Celtics are pre-switching on Luka every time while he’s still been highly effective as a scorer his playmaking has taken a significant step back. Their elite defense and size allow the Celtics to play this strategy. Luka’s playmaking did bounce back somewhat in Game 2 highlighted by 11 assists. However, he also had eight turnovers and had several poor decisions.

Furthermore, the Celtics were still successful in limiting the corner three and alley-oops. Notably, of Luka’s 11 assists none were corner threes or alley-oops. The two plays were the Mavericks’ bread and butter; they were using the alley at a historic rate. For all the talk about the Celtics high-powered offense, their defense could ultimately be the main reason Boston wins this series.

The Mavericks Need Scoring Production Outside of Luka Doncic

This one is a little more simple. Luka has scored 30 points in both games so far however, none of his teammates scored 20 or more points in the finals. Washington’s 17 last night is the highest in the series. A portion of this issue is the Celtics’ game plan to limit Luka as a playmaker and to limit the Mavs’ lob threats. Another factor is Kyrie’s struggles; he is averaging just 14 points per game on sub-40 percent shooting from the field. This issue is particularly problematic considering the Celtics’ elite offensive optionality. Ultimately if the Mavericks have any chance to make this series someone will need to step up alongside Luka.

Kristaps Porzingis is Essential

Heading into the series Kristaps Porzingis’ return was a crucial storyline. Porzingis has been an integral part of Boston’s success all year but many wondered how effective he would be after a scary calf injury. Porzinigis’ impact was on full display in Game 1 when he exploded for 20 points, six rebounds, and three blocks in just 21 minutes of play off the bench. Notably, the first two games have been the only games that Porzingis has come off the bench in his career. Porzingis is immensely valuable to the Celtics’ offense as an interior scorer, lob threat, mismatch hunter, and floor spacer. All while providing a vital role as a versatile rim protector and “free safety” on defense. The advanced stats highlight Porzingis’ incredible impact; he has a net rating of 27.7 with a plus/minus of +25. Notably, as the primary defender Porzingis has yet to let Dereck Lively score.

Ultimately, Porzingis is essential to Boston’s success and they will need him to continue his elite play to hold onto the series. Late in Game 1 Porzingis landed awkwardly on his ankle and appeared to not be moving the same. This is obviously cause for concern however, Porzingis confirmed he is doing well and will be fine after the game. Regardless, monitoring Porzingis’ minutes and preserving his health will be important as his impact and value are unmatched.

The Celtics Have Found The Kyrie Answer

Kyrie Irving’s offensive struggles have been one of the biggest stories of the series so far. He is averaging just 14 points, 4 assists, and 2.5 rebounds. Kyrie is also shooting just 35 percent from the field and has failed to connect on a three-pointer. Kyrie’s scoring combined with his lack of playmaking has been especially problematic for the Mavericks against the Celtics’ well-rounded offensive attack. Holiday has spent most of his time guarding Kyrie and has done a superb job holding him to just 25 percent from the field.

Furthermore, Holiday’s offense has been another crucial part of Boston’s success including a 26-point, 11-rebound outing last night. Derrick White has also spent plenty of time guarding Kyrie. Although he has been less effective, holding Kyrie to 54 percent from the field. The Celtics have also thrown Tatum and Brown on Kyrie for extra size. This combination of four all-defensive caliber players has overwhelmed Kyrie so far and taken away the Mavs’ second option. The Mavericks will need Kyrie to play at an elite level to make this series competitive.


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