Mavericks keep championship hopes alive with dominant Game 4 victory over Boston

The Mavericks kept their slim hopes of capturing a NBA championship alive with a dominant 122-84 Game 4 victory over the Celtics on Friday night.

Luka Doncic had a much better showing on both sides of the floor than Game 3 to lead Dallas, but the Mavericks’ defense played just as big a role in Dallas avoiding elimination. The Mavericks led 61-35 at halftime, limiting the Celtics to the fewest points they’ve scored in a half since Joe Mazulla became the head coach last season.

Doncic had much more effort on the defensive end and without Boston being able to consistently blow by him for drive and kick 3-pointers, the Celtics offense was out of sorts all night.

The decisive run came at the start of the second quarter with Dallas holding a 40-25 lead with just over nine minute remaining before halftime. Dallas held Boston without a point for nearly four minutes as the Mavericks used an 10-0 run to build a lead that wouldn’t be challenged.

Doncic and Irving scored on assisted on every basket during that stretch with Doncic converting two three-point plays to put the Celtics away before the halftime buzzer. With Dallas leading 88-52 with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter, the Celtics waived the white flag taking all their starters off the floor for the final 15 minutes of the game.

The odds are still stacked against Dallas to make a comeback as NBA teams are 0-156 once they fall behind 3-0 in the postseason, but for now the Mavericks can keep hope that they can be the first to pull off the historic comeback.

Doncic led Dallas with 29 points, five rebounds and five assists while Kyrie Irving had 21 points and six assists.

Luka makes a statement

Most of the conversation following the Mavs’ defeat in Game 3 revolved around the lack of defense from Doncic and his constant bickering with the officials. It’s first time the 25-year old perennial All-Star has faced so much criticism and it was fair to wonder how he would respond. Doncic made sure the only conversation after Game 4 would be about his dominant showing on offense as Doncic picked apart the Boston defense all night.

In the first half alone Doncic nearly outscored the Celtics with 25 points compared to Boston’s 35. The most impressive aspect of Doncic’s showing in the first half is that he was still able to be productive despite missing all four of his 3-point attempts. Instead of settling for stepback 3s, Doncic put his head down and kept attacking the basket no matter if he was guarded by Jaylen Brown or one of Boston’s veteran big men.

He was unguardable in the mid-post, hitting a number of turn around jumpers and even showed better movement when the ball wasn’t in his hands as he converted a three-point play cutting to the basket off a nice pass from Irving. Doncic didn’t need to do much in the second half as Dallas led by over 40 points at one point, but in the biggest moment of his career Doncic responded in a way all superstars are expected to.

Role players finally arrive

The Mavericks haven’t gotten much from their rotation outside of Irving and Doncic, but Dallas’ role players finally came alive with the season on the line. Dereck Lively II has looked like a rookie most of the series, but made a huge difference off the bench in the first half. Lively knocked down the first 3 of his career and had a staggering nine rebounds in 15 minutes of action. Lively was a big reason Dallas held a 29-13 advantage on the glass, which led to 10 second chance points compared to 0 for the Celtics.

Maxi Kleber and Dante Exum came off the bench to also give Dallas a spark with Kleber knocking down a 3 late in the second quarter to make it 61-35. In the second half P.J. Washington knocked down two 3-pointers in the third quarter and Lively continued to dominate in the paint in the second half as he finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

The Mavericks bench outscored Boston’s 24-8 in the first three quarters before Boston went with an all-bench lineup to close the fourth quarter.

Limiting the stars

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dominated in Game 3, combining for over 60 points, but the Mavericks did a much better job of limiting the two All-Star forwards in Game 4. Neither could find their footing from the 3-point line going a combined 2-of-9. With Tatum, the Mavericks continued to make life tough for him in the paint as Dallas would always send a secondary defender to clog the line on drives by Tatum.

At first Tatum did a good job of being aggressive and had a multiple trips to the free throw line. But as the game wore on, Tatum didn’t have the same physicality attacking the basket and he began to settle for heavily contested jumpers that Dallas was more than willing to live with. With Brown, he didn’t have the same success attacking Doncic early on switches and the Mavericks did a better job of taking away opportunities for Brown to score in the mid-range.

With both stars struggling, it made it much harder for players like Jrue Holiday and Derrick White to contribute. Tatum and Brown finished with just 15 and 10 points.