Luka Doncic Leads Mavs To Game 4 Win Over Celtics, Avoids NBA Finals Sweep

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, NBA News
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks extended their NBA Finals run with a 122-84 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 on Friday night. The blowout, one of the largest in Finals history, means the Mavericks will be heading to Boston rather than starting their offseason after Boston holding a 3-0 series lead entering the match.

Luka Doncic was instrumental in the win, scoring 25 of his 29 points in the first half. This early surge helped the Mavericks establish a 26-point lead by halftime, effectively sealing the game before the break.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Doncic said. “Like I said in the beginning of this series, it’s the first to four. And we’re going to believe until the end. We’re just going to keep going. I have big belief in this team that we can do it.”

Kyrie Irving contributed 21 points as Dallas took control early, leading by 13 points at the end of the first quarter and extending the lead to 38 points by the third quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, while Dereck Lively II added 11 points and 12 rebounds, including a crucial 3-pointer early in the game.

“I think he made a few people eat their words. In a healthy way — I’ll say that in a healthy way … He responded very well. I expected it,” Irving said of Doncic. “I think a lot of people expected it that have seen Luka and known Luka. Just didn’t know how it was going to happen. He made some things happen tonight that I was very proud of him. He grew.”

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics Updates

Dallas received needed perimeter shooting results from complementary players to create separation against Boston despite Doncic and Irving shooting a combined 1 of 14 from deep. However, the two superstars were highly efficient in attacking downhill, with Doncic shooting 12 of 18 on two-point attempts. He also dished out five assists, turned it over once, and shot 5 of 7 on free throws. Irving was 10 of 12 from inside the arc with six assists. Dallas only had eight turnovers as a team.

“This isn’t surgery,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “Our group was ready to go. They were ready to celebrate, and we made a stand. We were desperate. We’ve got to continue to keep playing that way. They’re trying to close the door. The hardest thing in this league is to close the door when you have a group that has nothing to lose. Tonight, you saw that.”

The Celtics experienced their first loss in five weeks, ending a 10-game postseason winning streak. Jayson Tatum was the leading scorer for Boston despite only recording 15 points, Sam Hauser added 14, and Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday each scored 10 points. They cleared the bench with over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics Updates

Reflecting on the loss, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said, “Preparation doesn’t guarantee an automatic success. I thought we had a great process. I thought we had a great shootaround. Thought we had a great film session yesterday. I thought the guys came out with the right intentions. I just didn’t think it went our way, and I thought Dallas outplayed us. They just played harder.”

The 38-point margin ranks third-largest in Finals history, only surpassed by Chicago’s 96-54 win over Utah in 1998 and Boston’s 131-92 victory over the Lakers in 2008. It was the Celtics’ worst NBA Finals loss since a 137-104 defeat to the Lakers in 1984.

Several historical low points marked Boston’s performance. The 35 points scored in the first half were their lowest in any half during the Mazzulla era. The 26-point halftime deficit was their second-largest of the season and their most significant ever in an NBA Finals game. With Tatum and Brown fixating on complaining to officials and getting out of their game, defense slipped overall as Boston continued to guard Doncic and Irving largely straight up with early pickup points. The combination, paired with poor shooting, was a poor display.

“We were locked in, especially on the defense end. We played with pace. It helped them,” Doncic said. “I’m here to help them in every way I can. We just got to play like that.”

Jrue Holiday acknowledged the Mavericks’ determination. “I think winning is hard. I think winning at any game is hard. But winning Game 4 of the NBA Finals is pretty damn hard. I think they came out desperate, and I think they punched us in the mouth, and we couldn’t kind of recover the way we wanted to.”

Despite an embarrassing loss, Al Horford conveyed optimism about Game 5. “I expect us to be much better on Monday,” he said.

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics Updates

The Mavericks face a daunting task; no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in NBA history. Kidd remains hopeful, saying, “We have nothing to lose.” His pre-game message involved telling the team that, hopefully, they had already packed their bags to head to Boston.

Kristaps Porzingis remained sidelined for this game as he recovers from a “rare” leg injury. His status remains questionable, but this appears to be more gamesmanship than a real chance of making a return at this point. Boston outscored Dallas by 25 points in the 44 minutes he played this series while being outscored by 31 in the 148 minutes without him.

Another element of this game that proved to be an important factor was Dante Exum being involved more next to Doncic and Irving, along with being a secondary guard in plug-and-play lineups with only Doncic. Exum pushed the pace often and was confident from deep with 10 points using multiple made 3-pointers and timely rim attacks.

“Exum has played at a high level for us all season,” Kidd said. “He’s been able to run the offense. He stepped up and made big shots for us to win. Then I thought tonight even the one he shot from out of bounds, he made it, that could easily have changed his confidence. He was aggressive while he was out on the floor. He was great. We’re going to need that on the road.”

Like Irving, Exum’s presence sometimes serves as an additional point guard, allowing Doncic to be moved around the half-court and get touches without having to create everything up top. This was a regular-season staple for Dallas that the team had gone away from for most of the postseason, with Exum struggling offensively early. With Exum being an aggressive point-of-attack defender picking up full court when needed, his all-around skill set, when confident, raises this team’s ceiling.

Lively’s activity inside the paint shouldn’t be overlooked, either. He was very aggressive on the offensive glass, with Boston trying to get away with crossmatching Tatum on him often throughout the game. He grabbed seven offensive rebounds, often leading to second-chance attempts or fouls. The Celtics only had four offensive boards as a team in the entire game.

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics Updates

Despite Boston’s prior success with pre-switching off-ball, Dallas was better about forcing Horford into action. Boston may need to consider sending earlier help or blitzing more in Game 5. There is a clear emphasis on staying home on weak side spacers and the center, but Doncic is too big for Holiday or White to handle on an island while he sees the same look. Irving is too skilled for that treatment as well.

The series continues on Monday, with Game 5 being played at TD Garden. Despite what history says about the Mavericks’ outlook to win the series, Doncic remains highly optimistic. “It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “Like I said in the beginning of this series, it’s the first to four. And we’re going to believe until the end. We’re just going to keep going. I have big belief in this team that we can do it.”

Want the latest NBA analysis, breaking news, and insider information? Click Here. Follow NBA Analysis Network on Twitter and Facebook.

Interested in reading the latest storylines and analysis in the NFL? Check out our partner NFL Analysis Network.

Klay Thompson Boosts Mavs’ Title Hopes: A Game-Changer For Dallas

Despite an appearance in the NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks aren’t standing pat going into next season. A busy first two days have seen the

Assembling Team USA: Predicting Starting Lineup For 2024 Paris Olympic Games

Since the 2004 disgrace, Team USA has run roughshod over the Olympics. Boasting a 29-1 record, the team has been near perfect, barring a meaningless

Jayson Tatum’s Path to Elite Status: A Championship And Rising Rankings

It has been a jolly few months for Jayson Tatum. After a cruising 64-win regular season, the Boston Celtics won their first NBA title in