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Boston Celtics vs Dallas Mavericks Game 2 preview: Three things to watch for, injury news, odds

BOSTON — The Celtics put up a big offensive number and won Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals by double digits. The Warriors won four of the next five games and took the series.

The Dallas Mavericks dropped Game 1s in their first-round series against the Clippers and then in the next round against the Thunder. However, the Mavericks bounced back to win both series.

“We lost Game 1 in Round 1, Round 2. So we’re not really worried about it,” P.J. Washington said. It’s one game at the end of the day. We’re looking at ways to get better, and we’re going to try to capitalize on those in Game 2.”

All of that is to say, don’t expect Game 2 of the 2024 NBA Finals to look like Game 1, which ended up being a comfortable 18-point Boston win. Let’s break down Game 2, including three things to look for.

Betting odds for NBA Finals 2024 Game 2

Boston -7
214.5 under/over

The crew over at NBC Sports Betting has their five best bets on the board, and that includes Boston -4 to win the first half:

Boston’s defense will continue to make life difficult for Doncic and until the Celtics fear anyone else on the Mavs, they can smother Luka. Boston moves the ball on offense like few clubs in the entire Association. The result is open look after open look. No reason to expect that to change in Game 2.

Injury news, updates

There are no changes, both teams came out of Game 1 relatively healthy.

Kristaps Porzingis confirmed that he is good and will play in Game 2, although he almost certainly will come off the bench again. He said that an extra day off between games (Thursday to Sunday) is good for him.

“That was, again, a good sign for myself and now having two days in between and preparing my body again, getting even probably better conditioning now for next game will be huge,” Porzingis said.

Three things to watch for in Game 2

1) Doncic, Irving must beat one-on-one coverages

For three playoff rounds — and, frankly, for his entire career — Luka Doncic was able to manipulate the defense by coming off a pick, getting past his man, then either scoring or drawing help then making the right pass to the corner for a 3, or throwing a lob that a big out of the dunker’s spot finishes.

That didn’t happen against Boston — the Celtics played him straight up with Jaylen Brown or Jrue Holiday (primarily) and didn’t send help. Doncic — and especially Irving, who had a rough night — did not make Boston pay for that.

It has to change in Game 2.

“I thought we were too much one-on-one,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We’ve got to move bodies. We’ve got to move the ball. Multiple guys have to touch the ball. We were just too stagnant, and that’s not the way we play. We’ve got to be better tomorrow.”

“I think just be a little bit more aggressive,” Doncic said of what needs to change. “I think we all came out for the game with little energy. So I think we have to be better with our energy especially from the start.”

Irving’s shot selection shows part of the problem: He had three shots at the rim in Game 1, five shots from 3, and that leaves 11 from the midrange (several more floaters in the paint, but not layups). Irving didn’t put pressure on the Boston defense (and he wasn’t hitting the shots he did take, going 6-of-19 from the floor).

Boston will again dare Doncic and Irving to score. They have to do enough early in Game 2 that Boston sends two to the ball, and then the passing for lobs and corner 3s starts to work. Doncic and Irving were defended 1-on-1 even after switches on picks, and it worked for Boston.

“What makes our team really special is we don’t have guys we hide on defense…” Jayson Tatum said. “We’re not showing or anything like that because that can compromise your defense.”

2) Dallas’ perimeter defenders must do better

As much of an issue as Dallas’ offense was in Game 1, that has clear fixes. The Mavericks will be better on that end.

The bigger problem was Boston’s defense — on the perimeter they could not keep Celtics ball handlers in front of them. Boston owned the point of attack.

That was less of a problem for Dallas in previous rounds because they could hide a rim-protecting big — Daniel Gafford or Dereck Lively II — on a non-shooter and keep him near the rim. That can’t happen against Boston, particularly when Kristaps Porzingis is on the court — Boston plays five out, and Dallas needs to defend that better.

“Defensively, I feel like we can do better,” Dallas’ P.J. Washington said. “Not allowing them to get a fast break and get open shots. Just try to contest threes, force them to take more twos. A lot of stuff we feel we can do better.”

While Kidd called Brown the Celtics’ best player, he said stopping Tatum is another problem.

“We have to, again, try to keep him from getting to the rim, keeping him off the free throw and then giving him wide-open threes,” Kidd said. “And so that’s not easy. It’s easier said than done. Again, we just have to make it tough on him.”

3) Can Dallas answer Boston’s runs?

As noted in item two, Dallas has some defensive matchup issues, and Boston will get theirs. Boston went on a couple of big runs in Game 1.

Dallas eventually answered the first one, getting Boston’s 29-point lead down to eight. However, they didn’t answer the 14-0 one at the end of the third, and then the game was over.

To a man, the Mavericks sounded calm and not thrown off being down 0-1.

“I think there’s no panic with this group. We didn’t play well in Game 1. Give credit to Boston; they did…” Kidd said. It was very similar to the way the playoffs started for us with the Clippers. We didn’t play well. We cut that 30-point lead down and made a game of it.

“But we responded in Game 2 on the road. Hopefully we can do the same thing here in Boston.”