NBA Finals Game 2 Recap and Game 3 Predictions

With a 107-98 win, the Boston Celtics took a 2-0 series lead over the Dallas Mavericks. Can the Mavs defend home court and get back into this series?
Jrue Holiday NBA Finals Update
Jrue Holiday looks like a Finals MVP candidate through the first two games of the series.

While the Celtics didn’t play an A+ game by any means in Game 2, they still were able to maintain their small cushion for all of the second half and make a few game-winning plays to take a 2-0 series lead to Dallas.

Similar to our Game 1 recap, this Sunday night matchup proved that Dallas could easily take a game or two of this series, but the guard tandem of Boston - especially Jrue Holiday - make the Celtics nearly unbeatable. 

Boston Wins Despite Poor Shooting

Before this series began, there were two potential paths for the Mavericks to steal a few games. The first was Luka Doncic erupting for 40+ points, torching the Celtics in the 4th quarter. The second scenario involved Boston having an off night from beyond the arc, with White, Tatum, and Porzingis struggling to get anything to drop, resulting in a low-scoring loss.

While Luka’s 40-point explosion might still happen in Dallas, we’ve seen that even if Boston struggles from deep, they can still secure scrappy wins. Even though the C’s shot just 45% from the field and 25% from three, Mazulla and company stuck to their game plan all night as it never felt as if Dallas was going to mount a big run on them in the 2nd half.

Yet again, Jrue Holiday was the deciding factor in this game. 26 points and 11 boards for the veteran marked his best finals performance since a 27 point Game 5 victory against the Suns a few years ago. The finals MVP ladder shifted once again, this time in Holiday’s favor as it is clear he’s the most important Celtic for the remainder of this series.

While Tatum has gone back-to-back games scoring less than 20 points, his leadership and unselfishness has blossomed since their last finals appearance and deserves recognition. Game winning plays as a ball handler and perimeter defender stunted the Mavs in Game 2, leading to Boston’s victory.

One stat to monitor for Tatum heading to Dallas - Tatum is 2 of 12 this series in FGs in the 4th quarter with a -2 +/-. Heading into two away games, JT needs to step up in the 4th for Boston even if Jrue continues his outstanding play on both ends of the court.

Boston Leads Series 2-0

Teams that lead 2-0 in the NBA Finals are 31-5 (86%) in securing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. While Dallas will be able to play in front of their home court this week, they haven’t trailed 2-0 heading back home at any point this postseason.

They were 3-0 in Game 2s heading into the Finals and had all the momentum in those series heading in their direction with one of Kyrie Irving, DJJ, or Washington stepping up from beyond the arc. With those three contributors held to minimal output in Games 1 and 2 and Luka still banged up from this grueling postseason run, the odds are against Dallas.

The Mavs are +550 to win the whole thing while Boston has its best odds of the season at the moment to lift the long-awaited trophy. Nine wins in a row for the Celtics, Porzingis back and looking healthy especially on the defensive end, and their guard tandem playing the best basketball of the season, Dallas and Jason Kidd have major adjustments to make this week if they want to have a shot at extending this series into the weekend.

Mavericks Major Adjustments

As Josh Hart said on the post-game show last night, Kyrie and Luka simply have to get easier buckets. Although Doncic has been nothing short of spectacular this postseason and NBA Finals, he’s been taking heavily contested shots all series. While this is a credit to Mazulla and Boston, look for more off-ball movement from both the Mavs’ guards to free themselves up in one-on-one matchups.

Another aspect has to involve DJJ and P.J. Washington. The two starting wings are shooting 2 of 13 from beyond the arc this series. Simply put, that won’t win championships especially as the Celtics are doubling down on forcing the Dallas role players to beat them from deep instead of Kyrie or Luka. Jones Jr. shot 5 of 6 from beyond the arc in home games in the WCF, while Washington shot 12 of 28 from deep in their Semis victory against OKC.

Similar shooting percentages are needed in order to keep this squad in the series. As for Jaden Hardy, Dante Exum, and Josh Green, Jason Kidd has to stagger their minutes as at least two of these guards on the court at the same time is a recipe for disaster on the offensive side of the ball.

Keys to Game 3 and Prediction

  • Dallas turned the ball over 15 times which led to 21 Celtic points.

  • Boston shot 19 of 20 from the free throw line.

  • Dallas shot just 16 of 24 from the line.

  • Boston was pesty in the backcourt, securing 10 total steals in Game 2.

Jason Kidd and the Mavs have to tighten the strings in Game 3 in order to keep this series close and rolling. Kyrie has been hiding from action so far and in a home atmosphere with the focus on Luka Doncic early on, Irving should finally shine in his best game of the Finals coming up.

With Tatum struggling at home and Porzingis playing 20 minutes in back-to-back games for the first time in over a month, it is difficult to envision Boston overloading the Mavs with offensive production in this one.

Dallas should try to speed the C’s up early on in this game, get Kyrie involved in off-ball action to take pressure off Luka, and ultimately still have confidence in Washington and DJJ to knock down the outside shot at home. In a series of runs, Game 3 should be no different.

When it gets to the end of the game, this time Luka and Kyrie will give Boston issues and knock down a few key shots to get this series to a manageable deficit.

Game 3 Odds: Dallas: -1.5 (-125 ML) vs Boston: +1.5 (+105 ML)

Game 3 Prediction: Mavericks win 108-103

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