Jun 9, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts after a play against the Dallas Mavericks during the fourth quarter in game two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics Take Commanding 2-0 Lead in NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics were able to drown out the pre-game noise to take a commanding 2-0 lead on the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals.

Leading up to Game 2, the storylines surrounding the Finals were not about the basketball being played. But while the NBA world was focused on debating who the Celtics’ best player was, Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, Boston remained focused on their end goal. And last night, they took one step closer. They reminded the world that they weren’t just one or two players, but a full team. A team that, right now, seems inevitable. And next time that team sets foot in Boston, they may just be bringing some jewelry with them.

Celtics Continue to Dazzle

After days of debate surrounding Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, neither was the Celtic who shined brightest on Sunday night. Instead, it was the Celtics two-way veteran point guard Jrue Holiday. Holiday, who Boston acquired from Milwaukee in the offseason, put up 26 points (11-14 FG) and 11 rebounds, both leading the team. Holiday is no stranger to the big moment, being a crucial part of the Bucks team that won the title in 2021. This continues a trend of offseason acquisitions proving vital to the Celtics’ success (look no further than Kristaps Porzingis’s outstanding Game 1 performance).

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Jaylen Brown continued his playoff surge, scoring 21 while dishing out 7 assists and nabbing 3 steals on defense. Derrick White shot poorly for his standards but was on target from three (4-10) and remained a pest on defense, with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Kristaps Porzingis again came off the bench, scoring 12 in limited minutes.

Jayson Tatum struggled shooting the ball once again, going 27.3% from the field and scoring under 20 for a second straight game. But the First Team All-NBA forward showed that being a star doesn’t always mean scoring the most points. Even while not being his usual scoring self, Tatum helped the Celtics in other ways, with a near triple double. After the game, Jrue Holiday gave Tatum (JT) a lot of credit for Boston’s win.

It seems that Tatum is displaying his maturity as a complete basketball player. He isn’t just a scorer as he once was. And now Boston has enough scoring where he doesn’t need 25+ a night for them to win. But if Tatum does get his stroke back, the Larry O’Brian Trophy may just as well begin its trip to Beantown.

Luka Magic Not Enough as Dallas Continues to Struggle

It would be difficult to blame Luka Doncic for the Mavs loss in Game 2. Don’t tell that to Luka though, who took the responsibility in his postgame press conference.

His turnovers (8) and free throw shooting (4-8), for most, were far overshadowed by his otherwise immaculate game. The Mavs’ star had a 32-point triple double, with 11 in both the rebounds and assists categories, on tremendous efficiency. Luka also continued his much-improved defense, stealing the ball four times.

Doncic’s play has been dubbed “Luka Magic” by many, but he can’t do it alone. While there were a few holes in his game, which he seemed to dwell on, Luka doesn’t seem like the problem. Dallas’s supporting cast has to step up in a major way if they want any chance of coming back from this 2-0 hole.

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Kyrie Irving has been the Robin to Luka’s Batman all playoffs. But in Boston he’s pulled a disappearing act. Irving had another disappointing performance, scoring just 16 on uncharacteristically poor efficiency. These struggles have been magnified by the storylines surrounding Irving in his return to Boston. The constant jeers and chants the Boston crowd repeats every time Irving touches the ball is seeming to have an effect on the former Celtic.

The Mavs will also need more out of their supporting cast. The remaining Mavs starters were solid, with P.J. Washington adding 17, Derrick Jones Jr. with 11 on 4-7 from the field, and Daniel Gafford getting 13. But to beat the Celtics, that’s not nearly enough. Dallas will need one of these three to emerge for the series to go past four games. More troubling for the Mavs, however, is their bench. The second unit combined for just 9 points. Maxi Kleber, a player the Mavs thought would improve them coming into the series, laid an egg. Outstanding rookie Dereck Lively was taken advantage of, with a plus-minus of -15 in 19 minutes. Josh Green had 4 points, and Dante Exum shot just once. Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd addressed these role players in his post-game press conference, saying they need to step up.

Looking Forward

The series continues in Dallas on Wednesday. Going home will no doubt help the Mavericks, as Irving escapes his Boston nightmare, and the fact that role players tend to play much better at home. For the Mavericks to retain any chance at winning this series, they likely need to take both of the next two. The problem is the Celtics have only lost two games all postseason. On their side, Boston hopes to finish off their historic run in Dallas. If the Celtics can complete a sweep, they will go down as one of the most talented and dominant teams in NBA playoff history. But only time will tell.

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