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Luka Doncic Lays Out Plan for Mavericks to Bounce Back Against Celtics in NBA Finals


DALLAS — As the Dallas Mavericks near Game 3 of the NBA Finals, they face a 2-0 series deficit against the Boston Celtics. The next two games will be played at American Airlines Center, with a loss in either giving the Celtics a commanding outlook to secure their 18th championship.

The Mavericks are coming off a 105-98 loss in Game 2 despite receiving Luka Doncic, who finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. While allowing too many blow-bys defensively was a concern, they also turned it over 15 times, missed eight free throws, had poor perimeter shooting from role players, and Kyrie Irving was contained below 20 points again.

Jun 9, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) dribbles the ball against Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) during the fourth quarter in game two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 9, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) dribbles the ball against Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) during the fourth quarter in game two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 2, outside of Doncic shooting 4 of 9 (44.4%) from the perimeter, the Mavericks shot 2 of 17 (11.8%). In the series, the Slovenian superstar has made 8 of 21 (38.1%) shots from deep, his teammates have gone just 5 of 32 (15.6%), and Irving has missed each of his eight attempts.

“We’ve got to make shots. We’ve got to make free throws and less turnovers,” Doncic said. “Those three things I think are the key for a win — to win.”

The first half featured dominant scoring results from Doncic, who scored 26 of his 32 points before the Celtics began being more aggressive in coverages to slow him down. He was asked what worked after halftime to get his teammates involved but reiterated the need to make shots, limit turnovers, and make free throws.

“Yeah, obviously didn’t work because we lost,” Doncic said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to make some more shots. I think my turnovers and my missed free throws cost us the game. So I’ve got to do way better in those two categories. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to make shots to win the game.”

Doncic managed to create advantages to generate quality shots for his teammates often by attacking downhill, leading to 11 assists. It was a significant improvement coming off a Game 1 performance that involved an uncharacteristically low one assist. The Slovenian superstar felt he forced Boston to help more after often trying to guard straight up one-on-one.

“I mean, they are physical, yeah. But they try to guard one-on-one,” Doncic said. “I think today they tried to help more. I was able to get some teammates open. But they are physical. They are very physical. We let them be physical. So they are pretty, pretty amazing on defense.”

Much tends to be made about homecourt advantage, but Doncic emphasized that regardless of where the game is played, they need to tighten up in those essential areas. “Score more points. But at the end of the day, it’s basketball, away or home,” he said. “We’ve just got to play better basketball to win.”

The Mavericks face a tall task to overcome a series deficit against a highly successful Celtics squad with many offensive threats and a tough defense. Doncic felt his team’s defense effectively handled guarding the 3-point line as the Celtics made 10 of 39 (25.6%) attempts from deep.

“That’s why they are the No. 1 team in the NBA with the No. 1 record,” Doncic said. “They have a lot of great players. Basically anybody can get off. Honestly, I think we didn’t do a bad job defending today. We took away threes. We contested more threes. And like I say, I had too many turnovers, and we missed a lot of free throws. So I think that cost us the game.”

Doncic continues to power through injuries as he plays out the postseason. After taking a charge in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he was diagnosed with a thoracic contusion in addition to already managing a right knee sprain and left ankle soreness.

When asked if there was a real chance he wasn’t going to play after being downgraded to questionable, Doncic stated there was. ” I mean, I actually was — you know, I always want to play. So all day we did a lot of things to get ready for the game,” he said.

The Mavericks will need Doncic to continue to handle his injuries and play at a high level, but they naturally need to his supporting cast to improve offensively to get back into the series.

Stick with MavericksGameday for more coverage of the Dallas Mavericks throughout the NBA Finals.

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