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Mavericks vs. Celtics NBA Finals Game 2: Five takeaways, analysis, stats from Jrue Holiday’s big night

Celtics have been a 'balanced team' vs. Mavericks
Dan Patrick reacts to the Boston Celtics taking Game 2 of the NBA Finals vs. the Dallas Mavericks, explaining why Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday and the depth of the Celtics set them apart in the series.

BOSTON — The Celtics were going to have a bad shooting night at some point this series (they always do). The kind of game where they shoot 5-of-27 (18.5%) on above-the-break 3s (and 5-of-12 from the corners), plus 8-of-18 from the midrange (including floaters).

That game was Sunday night. The shots that generally propel the Celtics were not falling.

Boston still won Game 2 — and that is scary for Dallas. They missed a chance on the road.

The Celtics won 105-98 thanks to 26 and 11 from Jrue Holiday and a balanced attack. Look at it this way: Luka Doncic led all scorers with 32, but the next four highest scorers in the game were all Celtics.

Boston has a 2-0 lead heading to Dallas for Game 3 next Wednesday, which is basically a must-win for Dallas.

Here are three takeaways from Game 2:

1) This is why Boston wanted Holiday

Two games into the NBA Finals, Jrue Holiday might be the frontrunner for Finals MVP (he and Jaylen Brown are a coin flip right now).

That may be more than even the Celtics expected out of Holiday, but they got him dreaming of moments like this.

Brad Stevens gave up a lot to get Holiday out of Portland: Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon, and two first-round picks. But he understood Holiday was an upgrade from Marcus Smart — as good a defender plus Holiday is a steadier, more polished offensive player willing to take on a role.

“I’m a utility guy. I’ll do whatever. I’m here to win,” Holiday said. “I feel like they brought me here to win, and I’ll do my best to do that.”

Jaylen Brown talked about how Holiday has adapted and fit right in for Boston.

“Jrue, he just came in, he wasn’t on the ball as much, still guarded at a high level, but became a corner three-point specialist. That’s just a testament to his greatness,” Brown said of the role Holiday had to take on all season. “Tonight they wanted to emphasize loading up, making us make the right reads over and over again, and Jrue had a lot of opportunities tonight and he took advantage. He’s just a hell of a player, hell of a person, great teammate.

“I credit the victory to him tonight.”

Holiday just wins. This is why Boston wanted him.

2) Experience matters on biggest stage

Boston is up 2-0 in this series partly because they just look more comfortable in this spotlight.

Boston’s utility guy Holiday is making MVP plays, Payton Pritchard is knocking down 34-foot buzzer beaters that change the momentum, and Derrick White is making chase-down blocks that seal the win.

Part of that confidence comes because Boston’s core has been here before. Dallas has Kyrie Irving — and Luka Doncic has been playing in a spotlight since he was 16 — but the role players have not found their footing. Derrick Jones Jr. is 6-of-16 in the series, Maxi Kleber 1-of-5, and Jalen Green is 2-of-8.

“I would say maybe I’m a bit more comfortable,” Holiday said about being back in the Finals (his first trip was with Milwaukee in 2021). “Just knowing kind of the pressure and

“That’s the majority of what the battle is, just managing your emotions. How do you handle adversity and your will and your perseverance,” Brown said. “Everything isn’t going to go according to plan. I wouldn’t have hoped that we shot, I don’t even know, what, 7-23 from three? We had a few ill-advised turnovers and fouls, but effort makes up the difference.”

That effort has Boston within two wins of a ring.

3) Porzingis says his calf is good… is it?

In the fourth quarter Sunday night, Kristaps Porzingis was not moving well. He had been brilliant in this series after missing five weeks with a calf strain — 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting plus some big blocks at the rim — but had he re-aggravated his calf. Joe Mazzulla took him out with 4:40 left and Al Horford finished the game.

Postgame, Mazzulla was asked his concern level with Porzingis’ calf.

“Zero. He’s good,” Mazzulla said.

Porzingis echoed that.

“I feel good. Feeling good. Yeah, I don’t think it’s anything serious,” Porzingis said. “But we will look at it tomorrow and go from there, but all good. I’ll be good.”

The team doctors will have the final say on that — and if he’s out that could be a dramatic shift in this series. Boston is +25 in Porzingis’ minutes through two games, and Dallas does not respect Horford as a rim protector in the same way.

For his part, Porzingis said he will play.

“I’ll die out there if we need…” Porzingis said of playing through it, but then added this about the final minutes. “Was a little bit limited, so the smart thing was to get Al back in there and close out the game.”

This is one to monitor over the next 48 hours.

4) Luka Doncic is a bad, bad man…

Luka Doncic was everything Dallas needed in Game 2 — 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. He was making tough shots in the face of a defense focused on him.

“I think Luka is a special player. He’s one of, if not the best player in the world, and he causes a problem,” Kidd said. “He’s able to find guys. Again, creating open opportunities, and we just didn’t take advantage of it.”

5) But Dallas needs to get Luka some help

If the Dallas Mavericks are going to come back from 0-2 down and win this series, something fundamental has to change from what we saw the first two games.

That can start with Kyrie Irving, who shrugged off the boos and attention from the crowd, but through two games he has 28 points on 13-of-37 (35.1%) shooting overall and 0-of-8 from 3. He simply has not been good enough as Dallas’ No. 2.

“A little disappointed in myself not being able to convert a lot more on my opportunities that I have in the lane,” Irving said after Game 2. “Obviously, I’m going against Jrue Holiday and Jaylen Brown a few times, but I feel like I have the upper edge on certain possessions where I’ve just got to convert.”

It’s not just Irving. As noted above, the Mavericks role players have got to be better, too — Derrick Jones Jr. is 6-of-16 in the series, Maxi Kleber 1-of-5, and Josh Green is 2-of-8.

Dallas needs its role players to step up at home, or this series will be very short.