June 22, 2024

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NBA Finals: How Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown break down the Mavs defense

NBA Finals: How Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown break down the Mavs defense

Jrue Holiday led the Boston Celtics with 26 points in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday. When asked about his offense in an interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters, Holiday credited Jayson Tatum, who assisted on seven of his 11 field goals.

“JT was getting the ball to the basket, they were working with him and he was making the right plays,” Holiday said.

In terms of individual scoring efficiency, Tatum has not been stellar. He finished with 18 points on 6-for-22 shooting and missed six of his seven 3-point attempts. As for Holiday, that didn’t matter.

“The way he played tonight, the way he led us, getting into the paint, making plays, finding me wide open, it was all about him,” Holiday said.

It’s strange to say this about a player who is shooting 31.6% from the field through two games, but Dallas just can’t seem to guard Tatum. The same goes for Jaylen Brown, Boston’s other star wing. Over and over in Game 2, Tatum and Brown attacked the Mavs off the dribble, forcing turnovers and creating advantages for their teammates. Despite the Celtics shooting just 10-for-39 (25.6%) from 3-point range, Tatum tallied 12 assists, and Brown had seven.

“We didn’t shoot the ball anywhere near our level, but we kept getting into the paint, and we kept getting great looks,” Brown said in a postgame interview on NBA TV. “All night, I was just trying to create a two-on-one. All night, I was driving and trying to make the five assists and then trust my teammates on the back end. I have to take care of the ball a little bit. A little bit more, but I’ll get those looks most games, and we’ll be able to “He made it.”

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While the margin of victory was smaller than it was in the first game, the contrast in style of play was just as stark. Dallas, which shot more corner 3-pointers than any other team in the NBA during the regular season, mainly because opponents attacked Luka Doncic more than any other player, went 1-for-5 on corner shots on Sunday. Boston’s defense mostly stayed out of the rotation, pushing Doncic and Kyrie Irving toward mid-range jumpers. On the other side of the floor, it seemed like the Mavericks were constantly rotating. The perimeter defenders couldn’t keep the Celtics’ playmakers in front of them, so they had to be in scramble mode.

The scary thing, from Dallas’ perspective, is that there’s no reason why it should be any easier defensively when the series shifts to the Texans in Games 3 and 4. Boston spent all year taking advantage of crossover matchups, hunting mismatches and forcing opponents to do the impossible. Decisions because of their divergence. He finished the regular season with the second-most efficient offense in NBA history, giving teams, like the Mavs, who can make up for their stars’ defensive deficiencies against most opponents, nowhere to hide them. Maxi Kleber, the Mavs’ 6-foot-10 backup big man, has served as Kawhi Leonard’s primary defender in past playoff games, and he is an emergency option and an all-around switch at the position in this matchup. Here’s Brown grilling it to ice the game on Sunday:

The last time Holiday reached the Finals, as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021, he took 20 or more shots in three of the six games. In his Big 2 for the Celtics, he shot 11-for-14, after a 4-for-9 showing in the opener. On this team, he no longer has to start the offense or take saving jumpers late on possessions as often, and he is very qualified for his third-down playmaking role. Dallas can’t worry about Tatum and Brown working the floor; She has to worry about Holiday (and Derrick White) making plays after her defense has already been compromised.

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“Jason facilitating, Jaylen making the decisions, creating plays for the Groo, and the way they defend us, we have to make plays multiple times,” Boston coach Joe Mazzola told reporters. “We have to have multiple motivations. I think.” Jrue did a great job — guys did a great job finding him, he did a great job attacking the closeouts and then either kicking it back for a second drive or an open shot.”

After the game, both Doncic and coach Jason Kidd seemed happy with the way the Mavericks were defending, but said their offense wasn’t good enough. Meaning Boston scored only 110.5 points per 100 possessions, well below their usual rate, and Dallas couldn’t capitalize, they’re right. However, it would be risky to assume that simply scoring better will give the Mavs the win they desperately need on Wednesday. If the Mavs can’t stay in front of anyone, they can’t count on the Celtics having another night.