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Can Porzingis stay hot? Five questions entering Celtics-Mavs Game 2

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Can Porzingis stay hot? Five questions entering Celtics-Mavs Game 2

Can Porzingis stay hot? Five questions ahead of the second game between Celtics and Mavs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics teed off in the 2024 NBA Finals with a 107-89 victory in Game 1 at TD Gardenand now it’s up to the Dallas Mavericks to respond.

The Mavs have been in this situation before. They lost the first game of both the first round and the conference semifinals. They bounced back with a win in Game 2 of each series.

Replicating that success for a third time will be a tough challenge for the Mavericks. The Celtics have won a franchise-record eight straight postseason games, and star center Kristaps Porzingis is back in the lineup after missing most of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

What should we watch for in Game 2 on Sunday night in Boston? Here are five key questions.

Will the Mavs’ role players step up?

The Mavericks can’t win this series if their role players don’t show up. Dallas players not named Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving combined to score just 47 points on 17-of-39 shooting in Game 1, and those numbers were inflated a bit when Jaden Hardy scored 11 points in garbage time during the fourth quarter .

PJ Washington was the only other Mavs starter besides Irving and Doncic to score in double figures.

Derrick Jones Jr. contributed five points. Josh Green, Dereck Lively II and Maxi Kleber scored just two points each. Foul trouble limited Lively to just 18 minutes of action.

It’s fair to wonder after Game 1 if the Mavs have the firepower to keep up with the Celtics. The C’s average 111.1 points per game in the playoffs. On Thursday, six players scored more than 10 points and Sam Hauser came close with eight.

Even if Doncic and Irving score 30 points each, the Mavericks still need other players to contribute at a high offensive level. Role players typically perform better at home, but the Mavs need to win at least one game in Boston to become NBA champions.

Washington is the key. The Mavs lost Game 1 in both the first and second rounds of the playoffs, but won Game 2 in each of those series because Washington scored 18 points against the Clippers and 29 points against the Thunder. Can he deliver another excellent performance in the second away game on Sunday? Dallas needs it badly.

Will Kyrie Irving be more efficient offensively?

Doncic scored 30 points on 12-of-26 shooting with 10 rebounds but only one assist in Game 1. It was a good performance, but not great. Irving, on the other hand, played poorly. In fact, it was one of his worst outings in the playoffs.

Irving scored just 12 points on 6-of-19 shooting. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts and committed three turnovers. He finished with just two assists.

The Celtics did a good job defending Irving, even at the rim.

“I think (the Celtics) really rely on their great defensive ball pressure and their one-on-one defenders,” Irving told reporters in his postgame press conference. “They funnel us into certain areas. Even as I say that, they rely on one-on-one, every time I get an ISO, there are almost two, three people waiting for me to go in there. I have to catch the ball on a live dribble and just be aware of my opportunities.

“It’s uncharacteristic of us to only have nine assists. The ball has to move a little more. And again, that starts with me just being able to pick up the pace, give us some easy opportunities and just adapt to what they are.” throwing us.”

The Mavericks are 3-3 in the playoffs when Irving scores 16 points or fewer. They are 9-3 when he scores more than 16 points. Doncic can’t beat the Celtics on his own. If Irving doesn’t help significantly offensively, this series will be over soon.

Can Kristaps Porzingis replicate his Game 1 performance?

Porzingis played one of the best Celtic first quarters in NBA Finals history in Game 1. He came off the bench and scored 11 points and blocked three shots in the first quarter. The Celtics had a one-point lead when he entered the game and it grew to 17 at the end of the quarter.

Porzingis was 2 of 4 from 3-point range and also took advantage of matchups against smaller players by shooting over them with his 7-foot-2 frame.

Porzingis finished with 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting. He also played very well defensively, blocking three shots and altering several others.

This sequence during the first quarter illustrated the two-way impact Porzingis had in the series opener.

It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments in Game 2 the Mavericks make regarding Porzingis. He is a very different type of center than the one they faced in the Western Conference Finals when Rudy Gobert was on the court. Porzingis can score from anywhere on the court and is a defensive brick wall in the paint.

“KP was great, he made shots. He changed shots. He blocked shots,” Mavs head coach Jason Kidd told reporters after the game. “He gave them a spark when he came off the bench. We just have to make it a little harder on the offensive end. We have to force him to do something different. He had great looks and knocked them down.”

If Porzingis plays anywhere near the level he did in Game 1 for the rest of the series, the Mavs are in serious trouble.

Will Jayson Tatum be more assertive when looking to score?

You know the Celtics are a special team when their best player doesn’t need to score more than 25 points to have a big impact on the game.

Tatum is the best rebounder on the team. Frankly, he is one of the best rebounding forwards in all of basketball. He pulled down 11 rebounds in Game 1 and leads the Celtics with 10.4 rebounds per game in the playoffs. Tatum also makes a big difference as a playmaker. He draws a lot of attention on his drives to the basket, but instead of forcing difficult shots, he consistently finds the open man. He dished out five assists on Thursday, and that number could have been much higher, but his teammates shot just 5 of 19 on his passes.

But even if the Celtics don’t need a high-scoring game from Tatum to rack up wins, it would definitely help if he was a bit more of a factor offensively. He scored only 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting in Game 1. He attempted only two free throws. The superstar forward played the entire first quarter but only had one shot attempt on frame.

Tatum is capable of dominating offensively (he averaged 30.3 points per game in the conference finals) and there are plenty of favorable matchups the Celtics can take advantage of when he has the ball in his hands. A more assertive Tatum on that end of the floor on Sunday night would be a nice boost for Boston.

Is Game 2 a must-win for the Mavs?

Is this a dumb question after a game? Maybe a little, but consider the following facts:

  • The Celtics lost consecutive games only four times during the regular season, and their longest losing streak was two games.

  • The Celtics have not lost four times in five games all season.

  • The Celtics are 6-0 on the road in the 2024 playoffs and have won eight straight postseason road games dating back to last year.

  • The Celtics are 42-1 in series in which they took a 2-0 lead. The only loss was to LeBron James and the Cavs in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Mavs have not faced an 0-2 deficit in these playoffs. They have stolen home field advantage in the first two games of each of their first three series. So if they were to lose 0-2 against the best team in the league, one that often plays better on the road than at home, it would be a different kind of pressure that Dallas hasn’t faced in the 2024 playoffs.

It wouldn’t be impossible for the Mavericks to win the series if they were down 0-2, but history wouldn’t be on their side. Only three teams since 1977 (2021 Bucks, 2016 Cavaliers, 2006 Heat) have fallen behind 0-2 in the NBA Finals and won the series.

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