Celtics vs. Mavericks takeaways: NBA Finals Game 1 goes to Boston as Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis shine

Well, that was rude. The Boston Celtics welcomed Kyrie Irving back to TD Garden with a 107-89 rout in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. The Celtics led by as many as 29 points in the first half, and, after Luka Doncic led a Mavericks run that cut the deficit to nine in the third quarter, they responded with a 16-2 run of their own, thanks largely to a series of timely plays by Jaylen Brown on both ends of the floor.

Brown finished with a team-high 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting, plus three blocks and three steals. Kristaps Porzingis, returning from a calf injury that had sidelined him since the first round of the playoffs, scored 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting off the bench and blocked three shots in 21 minutes.

On the other side, Doncic had 30 points on 12-for-26 shooting, and 10 rebounds, but only one assist. Irving struggled to get anything going and finished with 12 points on 6-for-19 shooting. Irving missed all five of his 3-point attempts.

Takeaways:

The math problem

Boston attempted 15 more 3s than Dallas did (42 to 27) and made nine more (16 to 7). Even if the Celtics had been a bit colder, that is a terrible, terrible formula for the Mavericks.

"Their spacing's great, and they have a lot of shooters, so I think we gotta do a better job taking those 3s away," Doncic told reporters.

Doncic is right, but that isn't easy. The Celtics shoot more 3s than anybody, and Dallas' defense, which has been excellent for the past few months, is better at protecting the paint than taking away 3s. The Mavs could decide to go small more often in Game 2, with the switchable Maxi Kleber at center -- they did this at times in the opener -- but that would feel like a macro victory for Boston. Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II, the latter of whom played only 18 minutes because of foul trouble in the opener, has given Dallas its defensive identity and can theoretically provide an advantage on the offensive glass. 

The bigger problem is on the other end. The Mavs shot fewer 3s than they did in this game only once all season, including the playoffs. During the regular season, nobody shot more corner 3s than Dallas, but on Thursday, it only attempted three of them. One of them was an off-the-dribble brick off the side of the backboard by Irving; the only make was a garbage-time transition attempt by Josh Green.

The absolutely massive assist discrepancy

Here's something that isn't normal: The Mavericks finished the game with nine assists. Two of them were in garbage time. 

Dallas had more turnovers (11) than assists. Boston had as many blocks as Dallas did assists. Even when the Mavs appeared to have some momentum in the third quarter, they weren't in a collective rhythm offensively. They didn't have a single assist in the third quarter, and the Celtics nudged them toward tough 2s in isolation.

"We've got to move the ball," Dallas coach Jason Kidd told reporters. "The ball just stuck too much."

On the other side, Jayson Tatum, Derrick White and Jrue Holiday finished with five assists apiece. Boston had 23 assists (i.e. about its average) in the game, and it scored 120.5 points per 100 possessions (i.e. about its average) before garbage time started (when Dallas took Doncic and Irving out with 5:17 left). The Celtics were not perfect offensively, but, for the vast majority of Game 1, their drive-and-kick game was on point. Dallas could not consistently contain them off the dribble.

The dominant Brown stretch

Here's Brown rejecting Derrick Jones Jr. at the rim. And then rejecting Irving at the rim:

And then hitting a cold-blooded 3 off the bounce:

The crazy thing about these plays is that they all happened in a two-minute stretch late in the third quarter. In that same stretch, Brown created a wide-open 3 for Al Horford in the corner. 

Brown was extremely aggressive attacking the basket, and he expended a ton of energy on the other end. He was the primary defender on Doncic, and twice he picked the superstar's pocket, then raced the other way for uncontested dunks. His best highlight was a massive poster dunk on Gafford in the second quarter, but his most important work was done in the third. When the Celtics were looking a bit shaky, Brown grabbed control of the game.

"What you saw tonight is kind of the challenge he took for himself coming into the year," Boston coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters. "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.

Usually when you give up a run and your offense gets a little stagnant, your defense goes with it. Tonight, our defense kept us in it, and that's really important, to have that defensive mindset. Some of those plays that Jaylen made were a part of that."

The happy return

After one of his deep 3s put Boston up by 28 points in the second quarter, the broadcast cut to Porzingis with an enormous smile on his face. The Celtics couldn't have scripted his return any better than this: He started off by making midrange jumpers over the top of Jaden Hardy and Green and driving past Lively for a two-handed dunk, and, while he made his presence felt on both ends and demonstrated why he's such a matchup problem for the Mavs, he didn't have to overexert himself.

"When I checked in and start things going my way and stuff, I didn't even think about it," Porzingis told reporters. "I was so in the moment and enjoying the moment and the crowd and everything, you know? I don't know, it's kind of like a blur to me right now. I have to re-watch the game, what happened and stuff, but I was completely just in the game. That's the best feeling. Like, I had the most fun and, yeah, and I hope to have more of those moments going forward."

Whether Porzingis continues to come off the bench or not, it's clear that he changes things for Boston. And Dallas doesn't want to see him that happy again. 

"Yeah, KP was great, he knocked down shots," Kidd said. "He changed shots. He blocked shots. He gave them a spark when he came off the bench. We've just got to make it a little bit tougher on the offensive end. We've got to make him do something different. He got great looks and knocked them down."

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FINAL SCORE: Celtics 107, Mavericks 89

Well, that was dominant. Boston led by as many as 29 points and should feel extremely good going into Game 2 on Sunday.

The Celtics annihilated the Mavericks from behind the 3-point line. Boston shot 16-42 (38.1%), Dallas 7-27 (25.9%). That is a big-time math problem for Jason Kidd. 

Dallas seemed a bit shellshocked against Boston's defense, and, if the 3-point disparity didn't make this clear, it also had trouble dealing with the Celtics' spacing.

All of Boston's starters scored in double digits, and Kristaps Porzingis, in his return from a calf injury, had 20 points off the bench.

The Mavs cut the deficit to nine points in the third quarter, but then Jaylen Brown (22 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals, three blocks) led a massive Celtics run and that was that. Jayson Tatum finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and a block.

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That should do it

With 5:17 left, down 100-75, the Mavs subbed Jaden Hardy and Dante Exum in for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. It appears that Jason Kidd is waving the white flag.

If Dallas' stars are done for the night, here are their Game 1 stat lines:

  • Doncic: 30 points on 12-26 FG, 4-12 3PT, 2-5 FT, 10 rebounds, one assist, two steals, four turnovers in 38 minutes
  • Irving: 12 points on 6-18 FG, 0-5 3PT, 0-0 FT, three rebounds, two assists, one steal, three turnovers in 37 minutes

Safe to say this was not a revenge game for Irving. Doncic was good, but this was about as discombobulated as the Mavericks' offense has looked. The Celtics did an excellent job against him, both with their switching and with their help defense. 

 
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Quite the discrepancy

With 8:34 left in the fourth quarter, the Celtics have 20 assists and the Mavericks have ... six.

Dallas didn't have a single assist in the third quarter. Through three quarters, it had five assists, which was the lowest total entering the fourth quarter of any team in the last three seasons, according to The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds.

Luka Doncic, who averaged 9.8 assists per game this year, has just one assist! The Mavs are coached by Jason Kidd, of all people!

Dallas has missed some open looks, for sure, but Boston's defense deserves tons of credit for this.

 
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Jaylen Brown is dominating

After that last update, Jaylen Brown continued doing just about everything for Boston: A drive and kick to Al Horford for a corner 3, a block on Kyrie Irving at the rim, then a huge pull-up 3 to cap a 14-0 Celtics run that put them up 86-64.

Dallas went scoreless for more than four minutes before Daniel Gafford was fouled as he rebounded a Tim Hardaway Jr. airball and made the ensuing pair of free throws.

At the end of the third quarter, Boston is up 86-66. After coming back on a furious run, Dallas ended up winning the third quarter by just a single point: 24-23. 

 
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Celtics regain control

...and now it's 80-64 with 1:51 left in the third. Jaylen Brown made a series of big plays. Offensively, he attacked the basket and drew fouls on Dereck Lively II twice. Defensively, he blew up a lob from Luka Doncic to Derrick Jones Jr. and blocked Jones' dunk at the rim.

Lively sat down after picking up his fifth foul, and the Mavs put in Tim Hardaway Jr. for him. They're small again, with Maxi Kleber at 5, and Boston is very deliberately looking to attack the basket with no true center in there.

 
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Luka, magical!

Here come the Mavs. After a deep, pull-up 3 by Luka Doncic, Boston's lead is down to 72-64 with 4:27 left in the third quarter. 

A few possessions earlier, Doncic switched onto Kristaps Porzingis, then stole the ball from his former teammate.

Doncic is up to 27 points on 11-20 shooting, including 4-9 from deep.

The Mavs are outscoring Boston 22-9 in the third quarter. They're on a 29-9 run, which started with about 90 seconds left in the first half.

At one point in this game, the Celtics were up by 29 points!

 
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It's a game of runs

Hey, the Mavs are on a 19-5 run! With less than seven minutes left in the third quarter, Boston is up 68-54. The Celtics have missed six of their first seven shots to start the third quarter.

Here's Kyrie Irving with a nice move against Al Horford on the baseline:

The good news for Dallas: Doncic and Irving have been aggressively attacking the basket.

The bad news: Doncic has been wincing a bit. His knee might be bothering him.

 
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HALFTIME: Celtics 63, Mavericks 42

Luka Doncic made a nice stepback 3 against his old buddy Kristaps Porzingis near the end of the second quarter, but the Mavs are still down by 21 points at half.

The most notable stat: The Celtics are shooting 11-27 (40.7%) from deep, while the Mavs are shooting 3-13 (23.1%)

Some more notable stats: 

  • Porzingis: 18 points on 7-9 FG, 2-3 3PT
  • Doncic: 17 points on 7-14 FG, 2-6 3PT
  • Brown: 13 points on 5-7 FG, 1-3 3PT
  • Bench points: Celtics 24, Mavericks 4
  • Assists: Celtics 15, Mavericks 5
 
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No first-half lead is safe in the NBA, but...

Wth 2:50 left in the second quarter, Boston is up 58-33. This is particularly crazy because Dallas had a 15-14 lead in this game.

A few notes:

  • Twice, Jaylen Brown has picked Luka Doncic's pocket and gone the other way for uncontested dunks.
  • The Mavericks have already gone to Maxi Kleber at 5 in an attempt to put some points on the board. 
  • Dallas' bench (Kleber, Lively, Green, Hardy) have scored a total of two points. Boston's bench (Porzingis, Hauser, Pritchard) have scored a total of 21 points. Most of that is KP.
  • Dallas is shooting 2-12 from 3-point range and 3-6 from the free throw line.
  • Boston has almost as many assists (13) and Dallas has field goals (14).
 
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Star update

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are outscoring Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown 14-11. The rest of the Celtics are outscoring the rest of the Mavs 37-15.

 
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That was vicious

I could talk about how the Celtics have spent most of this second quarter targeting Luka Doncic on defense ... or I could just post the clip of Jaylen Brown getting downhill and throwing down an incredible dunk: 

Yeah, that was insane. The Celtics were amped for the Finals.

They're up 48-27 with 6:29 left in the second quarter, by the way. Porzingis up to 15 points now. (A few days ago, I wrote about how he could be the key to the series.)

 
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First-quarter history for the Celtics

Boston's 17-point lead at the end of one quarter is the largest in NBA Finals history since the NBA/ABA merger. It's been all Boston for the last 10 minutes of game action.

 
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That escalated quickly

Whew. The Celtics just ended the first quarter on a 23-5 run. They're up 37-20 heading into the second. 

Immediately after I published that last update, Porzingis made a transition 3, blocked Kyrie Irving and then blocked a Josh Green dunk in transition. Wild! He has 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting in seven minutes.

More good news for Boston: Dallas keeps attacking Sam Hauser, and, so far, it's not working. Irving even missed a corner 3 against him off the side of the backboard.

Luka and Kyrie have a combined 11 points on 5-12 shooting. 

Dallas as a team is shooting 9-24, including 2-8 from deep. 

Boston as a team is shooting 13-23, including 7-15 from deep.

 
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Strong start for KP, too

In Kristaps Porzingis' first five minutes, the Celtics are +9. He already has eight points, two rebounds and a block.

He looks a little winded, but otherwise looks like he did pre-injury. Made elbow jumpers over Jaden Hardy and Josh Green from the elbow. Stopped PJ Washington in transition. Had a driving dunk off a keeper against Dereck Lively II. Missed an open 3, but that's OK.

 
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Strong start for Horford, but here comes KP

Al Horford started at center again, and, as expected, the Mavericks have started the game targeting him in the pick-and-roll. Luka Doncic has missed a couple of shots against him, including a tough 3, and Kyrie Irving missed a very difficult one over him on the baseline.

Horford also got the first bucket of the Finals -- a driving baseline dunk -- and made a spot-up 3. 

After less than five minutes, though, Kristaps Porzingis has checked in for Horford. Porzingis had been out since the first round with a calf injury, so let's see how he looks.

 
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Celtics honor Walton with tribute video

The Celtics, prior to Game 1, honored Bill Walton with a tribute video. Walton. the NBA legend and Basketball Hall of Famer who died last week at 71, helped the Celtics win the 1986 championship. Here's a look at the video, which played before the national anthem at TD Garden:

 
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Special warmups for Game 1

The Celtics are hosting their first game in Boston since Bill Walton died last week. Both teams are wearing "Walton" warm-up shirts -- with a special tie dye twist -- to honor the former Celtic and Hall of Famer.

 
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Celtics vs. Mavericks, Game 1 info

Tip-off is coming soon in Boston. Here's what to know for Game 1.

Time: 8:30 p.m ET | Date: Thursday, June 6
Location: TD Garden -- Boston
TV channel: ABC | Streaming: fubo (try for free)
Odds: BOS -240 | DAL +196 | O/U: 217.5

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We're getting close to tip-off

Teams are warming up and we're less than one hour away from tip-off at TD Garden.

 
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No minutes restriction for Porzingis

In his first game back after a calf injury, Kristaps Porzingis will not be on a minutes restriction tonight in Game 1, per Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla.

 
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Luka on Porzingis: There's no beef

Kristaps Porzingis will go up against his old team in these Finals. There have been rumors -- including some from former NBA player Chandler Parsons -- that Porzingis did not get along with Mavs star Luka Doncic during his time in Dallas. Doncic was asked their relationship this week and shot that idea down.

"That's why I don't watch a lot of that [sports talk], because people don't know," Doncic said. "I've talked to Chandler Parsons maybe twice in my life, so I don't know how he would know that. But me and KP [Porzingis] have a good relationship. I don't know why people would say otherwise."

Here's more:

NBA Finals: Luka Doncic laughs off former player's comments that Mavs star has beef with Kristaps Porzingis
Brad Botkin
NBA Finals: Luka Doncic laughs off former player's comments that Mavs star has beef with Kristaps Porzingis
 
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Ranking the best players in the NBA Finals

Who are the best players in these NBA Finals? The top four separate themselves: Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving for the Mavs. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the Celtics. The rest of the field gets trickier.

But CBS Sports' Jasmyn Wimbish is here to help with a ranking of the top 15 players in these Finals, from Luka to Sam Hauser.

Ranking top 15 players in 2024 NBA Finals: Luka Doncic edges Jayson Tatum, but Celtics have stronger starters
Jasmyn Wimbish
Ranking top 15 players in 2024 NBA Finals: Luka Doncic edges Jayson Tatum, but Celtics have stronger starters
 
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NBA Finals bold predictions

Are the other NBA Finals predictions you're seeing just not bold enough for you? CBS Sports' Brad Botkin has you covered. He made five bold proclamations ahead of Celtics vs. Mavericks, including a high point total for Luka Doncic and a historic upset for Dallas.

2024 NBA Finals: Five bold predictions for Celtics vs. Mavericks, with tight series ending in historic upset
Brad Botkin
2024 NBA Finals: Five bold predictions for Celtics vs. Mavericks, with tight series ending in historic upset
 
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Porzingis ready to go

The Boston Celtics will be healthy for NBA Finals Game 1. Nobody was on Boston's Game 1 injury report. For the first time since late April, it didn't feature Kristaps Porzingis, who missed more than a month after hurting his calf in the first round against the Heat. 

Porzingis averaged 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the regular season, and he could be a big part of this matchup.

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Kyrie returns to Boston

Kyrie Irving does not have the best relationship with fans of his former team. Irving, an ex-Celtic, previously stomped on the team's logo at halfcourt when he was a member of the Brooklyn Nets. But Irving reflected on his Boston tenure this week, saying he's "built for these moments."

"I'm built for these moments, to be able to handle circumstances like that, and I've been able to grow since then,' Irving concluded. "So of course it's going to be a hectic environment, but I'm looking forward to it and I see it as a healthy relationship that I have with the fans. I almost think about 'Gladiator,' just winning the crowd over. It is good to hear the TD Garden silent when you're playing well. They still respect great basketball."

Kyrie Irving addresses rocky Celtics tenure, says he's 'built for these moments' ahead of NBA Finals
Brad Botkin
Kyrie Irving addresses rocky Celtics tenure, says he's 'built for these moments' ahead of NBA Finals
 
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2024 NBA Finals staff picks

The 2024 NBA Finals are here. The Celtics, who have lost just 20 times in the regular season and postseason combined, are trying to end their title drought. Sportsbooks think Boston has a better chance at being victorious as the Celtics are a -220 favorite. But our CBS Sports experts aren't so sure.

Our panel of six writers made their picks earlier this week, and it was an even split. Three writers picked the Celtics. That includes Jack Maloney, who wrote there's "no need to overthink this one." 

Three writers picked the Mavericks. That includes Jasmyn Wimbish, who wrote "as long as the Mavericks can keep these games close until the final five minutes, I'm going with Doncic and Irving to pull out more wins down the stretch."

Check out the explanation for every pick below.

2024 NBA Finals predictions: Celtics vs. Mavericks picks with experts split on title matchup
Brad Botkin
2024 NBA Finals predictions: Celtics vs. Mavericks picks with experts split on title matchup