5 things the Celtics did on defense in Game 1 that kept the Mavericks in check

The Celtics could not stop Doncic, who posted a 30-point, 10-rebound double-double Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He muscled his way into the paint, scoring 12 points from 6 feet and in. He knocked down a pair of midrange jumpers and drilled a game-high four 3-pointers.


But the Celtics could live with Doncic’s scoring because they kept his teammates from providing enough help. Doncic is averaging 8.4 assists this postseason; the Mavericks had nine assists as a team Thursday night.

The Celtics became the first team to hold Dallas under 90 points this postseason, achieving this through a comprehensive team effort on defense.

Here are five strategies they employed to stifle one of the league’s top offenses:

· Restricted lobs and corner threes

The corner three is the shortest and one of the most efficient shots from beyond the arc.

Dallas struggled from the 3-point line, making only 7 of 27 attempts (25.9 percent). Only three of these attempts came from the corners, with just one being successful.

In contrast, the Celtics shot 6 for 14 from the corners (42.8 percent).

Another crucial area the Celtics controlled was the space near the rim.

Dereck Lively and Daniel Gafford had shown in the previous series they could score efficiently off lobs. Although they did not miss a field goal on Thursday night (4 for 4), their opportunities were so limited that they combined for only 10 points.

· Aggressively switched on defense

The Celtics take pride in their defensive versatility, and their proficiency in switching on screens was instrumental in slowing down the Mavericks.

Jrue Holiday and Derrick White applied relentless ball pressure, while the Celtics’ big men provided ample help. Timely rotations from Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Kristaps Porzingis contributed to the team’s nine blocked shots.

Jayson Tatum emphasized the team’s defensive unity, stating, “All season we’ve focused on the fact that we don’t hide anyone on defense. Both our bigs and guards switch and embrace the challenge of individual defense.

“We understand it’s a team effort; everyone needs to be on the same page. We don’t show or hedge because that can compromise our defense. Essentially, if you want to play for our team, you need to be able to guard, and everyone knows that.”

· Got into Kyrie Irving’s head

Kyrie Irving didn’t seem like himself, and the deafening TD Garden crowd might have played a role.

“We didn’t perform as we wanted tonight,” Irving admitted. “It starts with me getting out there and settling us down. I need to take accountability for the communication and adapting to the environment.”

  • Irving committed several uncharacteristic turnovers, including a careless no-look pass that went out of bounds and dribbling the ball off his foot on another possession.

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