The last time the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks faced off, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 68 points, outdueling 42 from Luka Dončić in a banner game for star-caliber talent in the early going of this NBA season. For a variety of reasons, the rematch was perhaps not so star-focused, but the result once again favored the team in green, as the Celtics swept the season series against Dallas and scored a convincing 124-95 win.
It was a rare occasion in which both Tatum and Brown shot poorly from the floor. They combined for 48 points on 14-of-34 shooting from the field, and Brown particularly struggled with foul trouble for much of the night. Tonight, the rest of the roster lifted them up. Malcolm Brogdon and Marcus Smart scored 15 points apiece, and the Celtics collectively put together a dominant defensive effort to hold the Mavericks to a feeble 38% shooting. Dončić led the Mavericks with 23 points, but seemed to be at less than full health for much of the night, and late-game contributions from Spencer Dinwiddie (18 points) and rookie Jaden Hardy (15) weren’t enough to keep up.
Much to the contrary of the scoring tirade the first time around, Tatum, Brown and Dončić found themselves off to a slow start in this evening’s rematch. The trio started the game shooting just 5-of-16 in the first quarter, including zero shot attempts for Brown, who sat early due to foul trouble.
That foul trouble was the biggest thorn in Boston’s side in the first half. Both Tatum and Brown found themselves in foul trouble early, and as a team, the Celtics put the Mavericks on the free throw line 18 times in the first two quarters. Dončić in particular benefitted from the freebies, finding his way to double-digit scoring in the first quarter despite poor shooting from the field, and subsequently piling up a 20-point first half when his shot started to come around in the second.
That said, it was the supporting cast around the opposing stars that made the difference. Boston’s reserves came to play this evening, getting off to a quick start with a trio of three-pointers collectively in the first quarter. It was a particularly strong start for Grant Williams, who chipped in with 10 points and a pair of threes. Invigorated, the Celtics’ offense connected on 43% of their threes, and entered the halftime break with a 64-46 lead.
One curious dynamic as this game continued on: the health of Luka Dončić. As the second quarter wound down, Dončić was evidently laboring through some kind of issue. He appeared to need to collect himself after possessions, and seemed to be coughing and grabbing at his chest at times. The TNT broadcast noted that the Mavericks organization asserted that Dončić was not sick, and speculated that he might have been hit in the chest at some point in the game, but whatever the cause, something clearly seemed to be causing him issues.
Dončić’s uncertain health seemed to slow his production in the second half. He opened the third quarter by picking up his fourth personal foul of the night, and scored just three points in the frame. The Celtics capitalized on the opportunity. Their ball movement was stellar, and for a change, the good looks they were generating consistently found paydirt. Even with Tatum and Brown combining for just 26 points on 7-of-23 shooting, the Celtics pushed their lead to 24 entering the fourth quarter, 89-65.
Looking insane skippin' thru that lane pic.twitter.com/muaNjZcree— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 6, 2023
The Mavericks received a lift from second round pick Jaden Hardy, who checked in for Dallas in the second half and provided a bit of a spark. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks attempted to rally, but the closest Dallas could ultimately cut the lead was 15 points with just under five minutes to play. The Celtics restored order shortly there after, as Tatum made a sequence of back-breaking plays (including securing his first triple-double of the season) to put Dallas away for good.
Next up, the Celtics will remain in the state of Texas to cap off their three-game road trip, facing the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday at 6 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.