Why Boston vs. Dallas regular season games don’t tell the story

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The Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics are the last teams left in the playoffs, meeting Thursday for Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Boston.

It’s no surprise that Boston is representing the Eastern Conference considering their dominant regular season that resulted in the best record in the league at 64-18. The Celtics defeated the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers on their way to the NBA Finals. It is Boston’s second final in the past three years.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, defeating the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves to reach the NBA’s brightest stage. The last time they reached this point in the season resulted in the franchise’s only championship in 2011.

The Mavericks are looking to become the first No. 5 seed to win an NBA championship since the current 16-team playoff format began 40 years ago. Since the 1983-84 season, only one team seeded fourth or lower has lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy: the 1994-95 Rockets, who were the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

So who has the advantage? Here’s an early scouting report from the series, which also takes a look at the two-game regular season series that went in Boston’s favor:

Season series vs. Celtics (Boston won 2-0)

January 22: Celtics 119, Mavericks 110

Despite a triple-double from Luka Doncic, the Mavericks were unable to find an offensive rhythm as the Celtics held Doncic and Kyrie Irving to a combined 21 of 50 (42%) shooting line, with Doncic making just two threes during the game. . Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, on the other hand, combined for 73 points, each eclipsing the 30-point mark.

March 1: Celtics 138, Mavericks 110

Head coach Jason Kidd called this loss “a great test to see where we are with the new pieces” after making significant adjustments to Dallas’ roster in February. As such, the Mavericks were ironing out kinks as they attempted to upend the well-oiled machine of the No. 1 team in the East. Still, Doncic dropped a 37-point triple-double, edging fellow MVP candidate Tatum, and PJ Washington turned in a solid 17-point, seven-rebound performance, with Dallas taking more positives from the game than the score would suggest.

5 things to know about the Boston Celtics, the NBA Finals opponent of the Dallas Mavericks

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It’s difficult to create a game plan for a team with a limited sample size of just two regular season games. The limited amount of playing history won’t tell the whole story, so the Mavericks will have to rely on the bulk of Boston’s postseason run to compile an accurate scouting report.

The Mavericks are led by Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, but the Celtics also have a dynamic duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Both players are the same size and can score in bunches, which could spell trouble for Dallas fullbacks Derrick Jones Jr. and P.J. Washington. Tatum and Brown have combined to average 51 points per game during the playoffs. Brown, the Eastern Conference finals MVP winner, has developed into a three-level scorer and can shoulder the scoring load like Tatum.

Aside from the stars, the Mavericks will have to focus on Jrue Holiday, who will likely have the defensive job of guarding Irving. The veteran guard is one of the most tenacious defenders in the league and he also has the ability to knock down perimeter shots.

Derrick White has given Boston a significant scoring boost and a new perimeter defender. He scored 16.8 points per game in the Eastern finals and made the series-clinching 3-pointer to help Boston eliminate the Pacers.

Last but not least is the Celtics’ elder statesman, Al Horford. The 17-year veteran is still capable of making key plays on both ends of the court, as evidenced by his 23 points in Game 3 against Indiana.

Mavericks fans should be well aware of Boston’s X-factor. Kristaps Porzingis, who spent three seasons with the Mavericks, is recovering from a right soleus strain that caused him to miss most of the postseason. His status for Game 1 is uncertain, but Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he is confident in his progress as of Friday afternoon. When healthy, Porzingis can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting, make an impact on the rebounding battle and pose a significant threat to defenses.

Who has the edge?

It’s hard not to be impressed with what Dallas has been able to accomplish since adding Washington and Daniel Gafford to the team at the trade deadline. Both players added dynamic improvement to the Mavericks on both ends of the floor.

Boston has 3-point shooters at every position on the floor, along with lockdown defenders. However, they haven’t played a team with the star power, versatility or depth like the Mavericks.

As long as Doncic and Irving play to their ceilings, the Mavericks shouldn’t have much trouble scoring the ball. Dallas’ role players will be critical, but production from its stars is imperative. To lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the Mavericks will have to repeat the defensive intensity they played with in the previous three rounds.