How the Boston Celtics dominated Game 1 of the NBA Finals

2024 NBA Finals - Game One
2024 NBA Finals - Game One / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

The Boston Celtics won Game 1 of the NBA Finals over the Dallas Mavericks by a score of 107-89. The Celtics lead ballooned to as big as 29, and, outside of a Mavericks run that cut the lead to eight, they really held control for the majority of the game.

There was a lot of skepticism surrounding the Celtics due to their relatively easy path to the Finals, but in what some would consider their first true test, they took care of business.

The Celtics had a very well-rounded performance, but we’re going to take a look into the most important aspects that led to their crucial Game 1 victory.

Kristaps Porziņģis effectiveness on both sides of the floor

Another reason why people had doubts about the Celtics in the NBA Finals was the health of Kristaps Porziņģis. After Porziņģis went down with an injury in Game 4 of the first round against the Miami Heat, many Celtics fans were rightfully worried. There were reports that he could come back in the Eastern Conference Finals, but his health was going to remain a question mark.

Luckily for Boston, they never needed to force him back into action, as they only lost one game after his injury, which gave him plenty of time to recover. But the worrying didn’t end there for the Celtics. While prolonged time off can be beneficial, it can also create some rust. Not having actual NBA game minutes for over a month and then jumping into an NBA Finals game is a lot to ask.

Joe Mazzulla decided to start Al Horford and bring Porziņģis in off the bench, where he almost instantly showed the time off proved to be extremely valuable to him. He showed zero signs of rust and immediately made a difference on both offense and defense. The Celtics didn’t need him on their path to the Finals, but everyone knew they were going to need him against the Mavericks, and he showed up big time.

Despite it being his first game back, Porziņģis had the highest usage rate on the Celtics (34.9%), the best defensive rating in the game (85), the second-highest true shooting percentage on the Celtics (72%), the highest defensive rebounding percentage on the Celtics (24%), and the second-most contested shots (12).

He single handedly changes how teams have to play on both ends against the Celtics, and we saw it at it’s absolute peak in Game One.

Team defense was at an all time high for the Boston Celtics

Over the course of the NBA Playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks have done a lot of damage to teams through Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving’s incredible abilities to create, lobs to Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively, and corner threes.

Luka still had an effective game scoring the basketball, but that will happen against any opponent. The Celtics still did a great job at guarding him and making things as difficult as they could for the star guard. Irving, on the other hand, made some difficult shots but also missed some wide-open ones, as he struggled throughout the game. The Celtics were also going to match up well with those two due to the defensive abilities of their starting guards, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, but there were still other ways the Mavs could hurt you.

Gafford and Lively were key to their series victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves because of how effectively they could play off the abilities of Luka and Kyrie. Against the Celtics in Game 1, however, they were both non-factors. Gafford only had three shot attempts, while Lively had only one. The size and length of Porziņģis definitely played a factor, but Al Horford tacked on two more, Jayson Tatum added one, and Jaylen Brown even got up to defend a lob to add to his three blocks.

Lastly, the Mavericks have been shooting the ball very effectively from the corners in these playoffs. But, if you take a look at the shot chart from Game 1, they only had three attempts from the corners. For some context, P.J. Washington, Derrick Jones Jr., and Josh Green have attempted a combined 143 corner threes throughout the playoffs. Limiting them to just three in a game is a huge factor. Mazzulla and the team's defense deserve a lot of credit for limiting something that the Mavericks had found so much success in.

Suffocating paint defence, blocked shots, limiting corner threes, and good on-ball defence on two of the best offensive guards in the league played a major role in this game and will have to for the rest of the series as well.

An all-around stellar offensive performance

The Celtics are a team full of players who know how to score the ball. Tatum has a career-high of 60 points, Holiday's is 51, Brown's is 50, and Porziņģis's is 43. On any given night, one of these players can go off offensively.

For Game 1, this wasn’t the case at all. No one on the Celtics had more than Brown's 22 points, and that’s a great sign. The whole starting lineup was in double figures, and Porziņģis added another 20 from the bench. This is a team that, in the past, could get stuck playing isolation basketball, where one player would easily lead the way in scoring. That meant if there was a bad game for someone, the games could get dicey.

Well, with the way Brad Stevens has constructed this team, that isn’t the case anymore. We saw it all regular season where anyone could step up on any given night, but the Celtics are at their best when everyone is contributing. They can get away with this because of how well rounded everyone on the roster is. You can’t leave anyone open on the three point line; they can all get to the rim, and no one is a defensive liability.

The Celtics played an almost perfect game against the Dallas Mavericks. They got exactly what they wanted on offense, and on defense, they stopped what the Mavs wanted to do. But this was only one game and the Celtics will need to continue this level of team offense and defense with a healthy Porziņģis if they want to finally bring home that elusive eighteenth NBA Title.