Celtics-Mavericks takeaways: Tatum gets triple-double in bounce-back win originally appeared on NBC SportsBoston
The Boston Celtics got back on track with a much-needed victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.
After starting their road trip with deflating losses to the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder, the C’s earned a 124-95 bounce-back win at American Airlines Center. Their stagnant offense took a step in the right direction as they shot 48.8 percent from the field and 37.2 percent (16-for-43) from 3-point range. It was an encouraging development as they had shot 30 percent or less from beyond the arc in six of their previous 10 games.
Luka Doncic, arguably the NBA MVP frontrunner, finished with 23 points for Dallas. Spencer Dinwiddie tallied 18 of his own from him in the losing effort.
Here are our takeaways from the Celtics’ victory, which snaps Dallas’ seven-game win streak and brings them to 27-12 on the season. They’ll wrap up their road trip Saturday night in San Antonio.
Supporting cast steps up
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown hadn’t gotten much help in recent games. The most glaring example was Tuesday night’s embarrassing loss to the Thunder when the rest of the team (not including Payton Pritchard’s garbage-time points) shot 14-for-43 (32.5 percent) from the floor.
The supporting cast responded with a tremendous effort on Thursday. The Celtics’ top three scorers in the first quarter came off the bench: Grant Williams (seven points), Malcolm Brogdon (six points), and Sam Hauser (five points). The secondary group was key to the win.
Williams sets the tone early. He notched 10 of his 12 points in the first half and the Celtics fed off his energy from that point on.
Brogdon has been ice-cold shooting the basketball as of late, but he was a major contributor in this one. He dropped 15 points (11 in the first half) while hitting three of his five 3-point attempts. He also had four assists and three boards.
The Celtics bench outscored the Mavericks bench at the half, 28-2. The second unit totaled 43 points for the game and got some late minutes as interim coach Joe Mazzulla was able to pull his starters for the final few minutes.
Jayson Tatum out duels Luka Doncic
The obvious storyline entering this matchup was the battle of MVP candidates between Tatum and Luka Doncic. Doncic may be the odds-on favorite, but Tatum won this round between the two heavyweights.
Tatum had two more assists (six) than the entire Mavericks roster in the first half. It wasn’t his most efficient shooting night (8-for-22 FG, 2-for-8 3-PT), but he still managed to finish with a triple-double.
Doncic entered Thursday night averaging more than 44 points over his last six games. He was limited to a modest (by his standards) 23 points on 7-of-23 shooting and sat out the entire fourth quarter.
Defense turns it around
Giving up 150 points to the Thunder was a new low for the Celtics defensively. Boston’s 2022-23 defense simply hasn’t been up to par with what we watched last season.
On Thursday, however, the Celtics had perhaps their best defensive game of the campaign thus far. They kept Doncic quiet and limited the red-hot Mavs to just 37.8 percent from the field and 21.9 percent from 3, the lowest numbers against Boston all season and Dallas’ third-lowest field goal percentage.
The Mavericks’ 95 points marked the fourth-fewest they’ve scored to this point in the season. It was an impressive response from the C’s after a rough start to their trip out west, and they’ll hope to carry momentum from the performance into the final game of the trip Saturday vs. the Spurs.