NBA Finals: Game 1 Notebook

“It’s a Celtic avalanche in the first quarter!”. These words Mike Breen, the great ABC play-by-play man defined Boston’s 107-89 win to open the NBA Finals. In the first quarter, Boston outshot the Dallas Mavericks 57% to 38%, highlighted by the Celts hitting 7/15 from behind the arc compared to just 2/8 for the Mavs. Moreover, Boston outrebounded Dallas 16-6 in that critical first stanza, when they built a 37-20 lead.

The return of Kristaps Porzingis was the key. He scored 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter. That included drives to the basket, pull-up jumpers, and deep three-pointers. Porzingis electrified a crowd that was already on fire.

The Celtics eventually doubled up the Mavs, leading 58-29 at one point in the second quarter, but Dallas came back. This is a team that almost wiped out a thirty-point deficit against the L.A. Clippers in the first round. And with Luka Doncic getting 30 points/10 rebounds, the Mavericks cut this lead to 72-64 in the third quarter. It was very much a game and the nervousness in the Garden could be felt.

It was time for Jaylen Brown. The Boston forward had his usual efficient night, shooting 7-for-12 from the floor and scoring 22 points. He blocked three shots, two of them during an 11-0 counter surge that opened the Celtic lead back up, and they cruised home to the win without further incident.

In our Finals preview yesterday, we noted that Luka could get his numbers for Dallas, but Boston could still win. To that end, the fact Doncic only had one assist stands out. You can look at Kyrie Irving, forced into a 6-for-19 shooting night. The return of Porzingis solidified Boston’s interior defense. Key Maverick role players, from Dereck Lively to Daniel Gafford, who were so impactful against Minnesota, didn’t make an impact in this game. The alley-oop dunks that the Mavs made a living on in their run through the Western Conference were non-existent last night.

This is still just one game. Boston opened up their series against Miami and Cleveland with dazzling Game 1 wins, only to lose decisively in Game 2. The Celtics played well at home in Game 2 against Indiana, but that was only after being pushed to the wall in Game 1. In other words, the Celts have yet to string together two dominant homecourt games to open the playoffs.

 The fact that this opener was played pretty evenly for the final three quarters suggests the Mavericks will be back on Sunday night. The key factor I’m looking at for Game 2 is Jayson Tatum. The Celtic star did not have a good opener. He was only 6-for-16, and the activity on the drive that marked his play during the Eastern Conference run seemed absent. Perhaps he was stepping back for Porzingis. He’ll need to regain that sharp edge.

But for now, Boston has drawn first blood.