Mavericks had their chances in Boston in Game 2, but late rally falls short, 105-98

The Mavericks were unable to capitalize on Boston’s cold shootingin the first half and their late rally fell short in a disappointing 105-98 loss to Boston Sunday night in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Boston shot below 25% behind the arc for most of the night but didn’t take advantage of it outside of the first few minutes of the first quarter.

Luka Doncic, who was questionable with a chest injury going into the game, had a triple-double to keep Dallas close, but the Celtics’ depth and defense was eventually too much to overcome for the Mavericks.

Like Boston, Dallas also struggled from 3-point range, making just 6-of-26 (23%). That follows Game 1’s 7-of-27 performance.

Dallas, however, did make it interesting in the fourth quarter, trailing 97-89 with less than 5 minutes remaining.

Doncic made a critical error making a pass across half court that was first deflected by Jrue Holiday and then picked off by Derrick White.

It led to open 3-pointer for Holiday and then on the next possession, Holiday grabbed an offensive rebound and hit White for a second straight 3 that made it 103-89 with 3:34 remaining. The Mavericks used a 9-0 run to make one final run as Doncic converted a three-point play to make it 103-98 with just over a minute remaining.

Dallas had a chance to make it a one possession game, but White came up with the biggest play of the game with a block on a P.J. Washington, who was pushed in the back by Jaylen Brown as he went to the rim. Brown iced the game with a tough layup at the basket to put Dallas in a 2-0 hole.

Luka’s just fine, but not enough

There was some panic about the status of Doncic leading up to the game as the superstar was downgraded to questionable before tip-off. Any concerns about his health were quickly alleviated with a signature Doncic performance in the first quarter. Doncic set the tone with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Even when a stud defender like Jayson Tatum switched onto him, Doncic got to the rim.

Doncic added 10 more points in the second quarter, going right after the Celtics other star forward Brown. Doncic’s 23 first half points were breathtaking, but unable to keep the Mavericks ahead of Boston as the Celtics slowly overcame his brilliance to take a 54-51 halftime lead.

Doncic entered the fourth with 29 points and nine assists, but went scoreless until the final two minutes of the fourth. Doncic finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, once again proving he was the best player on the floor, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

Mental warfare?

Dallas coach Jason Kidd started a mini- controversy on social media when he called Brown the best player on the Celtics. Tatum is the more decorated of the duo, having been named first team All-NBA for the third straight season while Brown was left off the All-NBA team entirely. Kidd isn’t the first to suggest Brown is the best player on Boston, but many believed it was a mental ploy to try to and get Tatum to press the issue to prove his value.

Tatum once again struggled from the field, starting the game 2-of-10 with a number of misses at the rim and only having five points in the first half. Brown was more solid with eight points, but it was actually Jrue Holiday that carried Boston early with 17 points in the first half.

Tatum was better in the second half despite continuing to struggle with his jump shot. He was the top playmaker for Boston with 12 assists, nine rebounds and he was also the key to Boston’s defensive scheme. The Celtics matched Tatum up against the centers of Dallas with the intention of letting Tatum switch onto Doncic on the pick and roll. Doncic had early success, but Tatum and his teammates defense was able to wear on him as the game progressed.

Brown finished with 19 points while Tatum had 18.

Irving’s struggles continue

Kyrie Irving was terrific in his first two trips to the NBA Finals with Cleveland, but his first return trip since 2017 hasn’t gone as planned. Irving had another tough shooting night and was unable to be the runningmate Doncic needed. In Game 1 Irving was missing a number of wide open looks he usually knocks down, in Game 2 it was more about the defense of the Celtics.

Irving scored eight points in the first quarter, but was held to just four points in the second and third as the Mavericks went from leading to trailing. The defense of White, Holiday and Brown made life difficult for Irving as they all used different strengths to bother frustrate him. Irving started the game making four of his first five shots, but went 3-of-13 the rest of the way.

Without Irving’s scoring, the Dallas offense was sluggish relying on Doncic to either make a contested shot or try his best to create an opening for his teammates, which he did numerous times with flashy passes. Irving finished with 16 and will need to be much better in Dallas or this series could end quickly.

Washington (17 points, seven rebounds) and Daniel Gafford (13 points, nine rebounds) both had solid games to help keep the Mavericks hanging around.

Holiday season

Desperate to get over the hump, the Celtics brought in Holiday from the Milwaukee Bucks to be the veteran guard Boston has sorely lacked. Holiday showed how valuable he was with his best performance of the postseason. Holiday led the Celtics in scoring with 26 and he was especially effective inside the paint where he was a perfect 9-of-9 in the first three quarters.

With the Mavericks defense focusing so much on limiting Tatum as a scorer, Holiday let Tatum initiate the offense and became a finisher. When Tatum slashed to the basket and drew a second defender, Holiday was in the gap waiting and kept converting layups most of the night.

Holiday made one of the biggest plays of the night on the deflection of Doncic late in the fourth quarter. Holiday showed his championship pedigree on a night where the Celtics’ two best players weren’t great.