1. The Boston Celtics first two defensive possessions were a mess. It gave the game an air of “Here we go again.” Luka Doncic is very good and that allows him to shed Marcus Smart, but he should never get this good of a look:
On the next trip, this is about as blown a switching coverage as you can have:
Fortunately, that was about it for true defensive breakdowns. From this point forward, the Dallas Mavericks made plenty of shots, but they were fairly well-contested. There were a couple of open threes, but that’s going to happen, especially against Doncic. Overall, it was a solid game for the Celtics defense.
2. You can kind of tell when Jayson Tatum is feeling it. There’s certain tells. When he’s decisive and goes immediately off a screen into a pullup is one of them:
When that first jumper falls for Tatum, he often gets locked in immediately. If he tries one-legged fallaways like this (a pretty nice homage to Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas!), Tatum is in for a big night:
That usually leads to his side-step, step-back jumper, which he hit a couple of. But when Tatum’s energy is good, he and the ball find each other in less conventional ways too:
Welcome back, Jayson Tatum Scoring Machine. You’ve been missed.
3. It wasn’t just scoring-wise that Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics. He made other plays too. Tatum only picked up two assists, but his ball movement all game was solid. Here is one of those two assists, because this is the type of drive-and-dish play we love to see from Tatum:
This was also one of Tatum’s better defensive performances. This is lockdown defense late in the game against one of the NBA’s best:
4. When Marcus Smart said he wanted the ball to make life easier for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen to score, this has to be what he’s envisioning. Dennis Schroder gets Boston into something quickly. Dallas collapses to take away Smart’s drive and the drop-off pass to Robert Williams. Smart kicks to Al Horford in the corner. Horford quickly swings it to Tatum:
This is the kind of good, quick, attacking offense with ball movement that Boston has lacked a lot this season.
5. In the clip above, the Mavericks defense can’t rotate the way they want because Marcus Smart drives and Robert Williams keeps his man home at the rim. Williams has become such a dominant rim threat, that defenses have to stay conscious of him now.
Earlier in the Takeaways, you saw Tatum drive and dish to Williams. Late in the game, Williams remained that threat. Here’s Dennis Schroder finding him for an and-1 chance:
A few plays later, Jayson Tatum rips and runs off the boards. That gets the ball up before Dallas can set their defense. From there, Schroder again finds Williams over the top:
6. Speaking of Dennis Schroder…he stepped up to give Boston a second scorer with Jaylen Brown being out. Schroder was on the attack most of the game too. Several times, he drew Kristaps Porzingis and went right at him. Here’s a play from late in the game where Schroder drew an and-1:
7. Josh Richardson also put together a nice night off the bench, as he scored 13 points. Here’s another example of how Boston pushing the ball up the floor helps them catch the Mavericks before they are set:
8. Let’s go endgame now…Marcus Smart giveth:
9. Marcus Smart taketh away…but with kind-of, sort-of explanations.
First, Smart’s thought-process is correct here. He’s trying to make sure Boston gets the 2-for-1 opportunity. And, despite the league’s crackdown on foul baiting, this is an actual foul from Kristaps Porzingis. The problem is, one of the league’s most-notorious floppers isn’t getting this call at the end of the game:
Next, this happened:
Boston had a foul to give, but Ime Udoka said postgame that he told the team not to give it. Udoka tried to take the heat off Smart by saying “I need to be better about making sure everyone gets the message”, but a veteran like Smart doesn’t need that message. He knows giving a foul there will reset the shot-clock and give Dallas the last shot. It’s inexplicable why this happened.
And that foul led to this:
Two years in a row in Dallas, Luke Doncic rips the heart out of the Celtics. Josh Richardson couldn’t have defended this any better either. He’s right there on the shot. Doncic is simply that good.
10. The Celtics return home to Boston for three consecutive days off. That’s important because it will allow Jaylen Brown some time to heal his hurt hamstring. And Ime Udoka can get his guys in the gym for some practice time. One key focus: How can Boston clean up their late-game rebounding? It’s cost them at least four different times this season.
All in all, this was a great road trip for the Celtics. They handled a bad Orlando Magic with relative ease. They stomped a very good Miami Heat team. And they were right there with the Mavericks, despite not having Brown.
4-6 wasn’t the 10-game start anyone expected. But considering two of the losses came in overtime, one came at the buzzer and another was a major collapse, it really feels as if the Celtics aren’t that far away from stringing together some wins.
When they play next on Wednesday, they have a chance against the same Toronto Raptors that “punked” them in the home opener. That game should be a quality measuring stick to see just how much has been fixed, and how much remains broken.