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The Talon

The Talon

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June 20, 2024

What the First 2 Games of the NBA Finals Tell Us

Image via @NBA on X.

We are potentially two games away from crowning the 2023-24 NBA champion and there is a lot of information to unpack. The Celtics protected their home court advantage at TD Garden and will head to Dallas with a 2-0 series lead and a chance to capture the elusive 18th championship which would make them the most decorated team in NBA finals history. A championship for Boston would not only be meaningful for the franchise, but for this squad in particular as well. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would finally hoist the Larry O’Brien after a failed finals run in 2022 and five and six Eastern Conference Finals trips respectively. Al Horford could finally grab the ring that has long evaded him and likely retire on top, while Porzingis, Derrick White and the other Celtic’s role players could grab his first ring of potentially many to come.  

For the Maverick’s, a title would exponentially boost Luka Doncic’s legacy, especially if he overcomes the current 2-0 deficit. Kyrie Irving could finally ascend to the top again in the post-Lebron era of his career and quiet the criticism from Boston fans. 

With all this at stake, it appears clear after two games that the Celtics have a firm grip on this series. Boston’s 18 point victory in Game 1 displayed their strength that Dallas severely lacks: depth. The Celtics had six players in double figures, and despite Tatum, being their top scorer, only scoring 16 points on 37.5% shooting, won in a very convincing manner. On the flip side, the Mavericks only posted four players with 10+ points and heavily relied on a hobbled Doncic. 

Not only is a lack of overall depth plaguing Dallas, their #2 option has also failed to show up when he was needed most this series. Irving only posted 12 points on 31.6% shooting in Game 1, and was -19 in +/-. 

Irving’s scoring absence was felt again in Game 2, with him posting only 16 points on 38% shooting. Irving has also failed to make a 3 point FG in this entire series, being 0-8 overall. In closer games like Game 2, the Mavericks need to be able to rely on a secondary scorer in Irving, especially with the high load and injuries Doncic is dealing with. 

This was on full display down the stretch last night. The heavy scoring burden Doncic is given uses up too much gas in the early portion of the game, when it comes down to the wire, Irving and the Dallas role players fail to come through and the Maverick’s engine conks out. 

Another one of Dallas’ fatal errors this series has been free throws. They have only shot around 64% in the first 2 games. There is little margin for error for Dallas considering the talent gaps of the two teams, and free throws are definitely part of this margin.

This is not to attribute Boston’s 2-0 series lead solely to Dallas’ errors. Boston has played pretty phenomenally across the board thus far. Their half court defense has been very tight and given the Mavericks more troubles than the supposed best defensive team in the league in the Timberwolves last round. Despite his inefficiency in scoring, Tatum has performed well in almost every other aspect of the game, nearly posting a triple double last night with 18 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds. Tatum is also a viable post defender and can use his length to size up the Maverick’s bigs. Among notable defensive threats for the Celtics this series have been Brown, White, Porzingis and Jrue Holiday who have all come up big in major defensive moments. 

So what does all of this mean going forward? What do the Mavericks have to do to avoid the death sentence that is a 3-0 series deficit? The answer is pretty straightforward and has already been articulated up to this point: Kyrie Irving needs to step up. P.J. Washington and the rest of the Dallas squad could use to improve their shooting a little as well, but Irving is the most crucial factor for Dallas if they hope to not get swept. In contrast to the sea of boos Irving was met with in Boston, the Dallas crowd will be fired up for Game 3 and could potentially give the Mavericks outside of Luka the boost they need to provide that extra scoring. Reducing careless mistakes- minimizing turnovers and making free throws- which both will also be easier at home, are vital for the Mavericks as well. 

With all this being said, I believe that the Celtic’s depth and arsenal of three-point shooters will ultimately be too much for the Mavericks to handle and Boston will finally capture ring 18. 

Game 3 of the finals will air at 8:30 PM EST on Wednesday June, 12. 

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About the Contributor
Sullivan Nolan
Sullivan Nolan, Junior Content Editor
Sullivan Nolan is a second year journalism student and a member of the Class of 2025. Sullivan is a part of the soccer and track teams here at school. Outside of school he enjoys hanging out with friends and cooking.