Saturday's NBA playoffs takeaways: Mavericks take series lead, Celtics make strong comeback

By Anthony Slater, Tim Cato, Jay King, Jared Weiss and Joe Warden

The Boston Celtics bounced back from their embarrassing loss in Game 2 to take the series lead by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-93 on Saturday.

The Cavs attempted a strong comeback in the fourth quarter after trailing by double digits for most of the game, but Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – who combined for 61 points and 22 rebounds – responded to preserve the win.

The Celtics will look to continue their road success on Monday.

In the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second consecutive game to take a 2–1 series lead.

Mavs forward PJ Washington continued his dominant play, scoring a team-high 27 points on 11 of 23 shooting with five 3-pointers in the 105–101 win. Star guards Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic scored 22 points apiece, with Irving adding seven assists and Doncic grabbing 15 rebounds.

For the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the only player to score more than 16 points; His 31 were a game high, but he also had five turnovers.

Dallas swept Oklahoma City thanks to 15 offensive boards.

celtics 106, cavaliers 93

series: Boston leads 2-1

Game 4: monday in cleveland

Boston's defensive intensity returns

The Celtics had a chance to close the door on Cleveland after taking a 23-point lead early in the third quarter, but the Cavaliers didn't quit. They cut the deficit to within 9 points early in the fourth quarter. With the Cleveland crowd going wild, this could spell trouble for Boston.

After a timeout, Tatum drove for a bucket. Moments later, Brown drove another car. The Cavaliers kept pace for a while but never got closer than 9 points the rest of the way. The Celtics had all kinds of answers. Brown hit a runner with a single. Tatum sank a fadeaway jumper. Boston's offense stood out again and again.

The Celtics left Game 2 disappointed in their defense. He didn't believe the intensity he showed in the playoffs during the loss. The theme from the players at shootaround Saturday morning was that, no matter what they did offensively, they needed to work much harder on the other end of the court. He did this. But he still needed to perform at the other end. If they continue to do so in big moments, as they did in Game 3, it will be tough for any opponent to beat them. -Jay King, Celtics beat writer

Tatum is still effective despite poor shooting

As this series has progressed, Tatum's sharp shooting just isn't coming. It didn't matter in Game 3. He was the most aggressive in this series when attacking the rim, he dominated the boards and was Boston's best rim protector. Tatum is showing that while most stars can't be stopped from scoring or passing or doing whatever they do best, he will do everything else at a high level to make an impact.

With Brown shooting lights once again, Boston never suffered a major downfall. Jrue Holiday made his way to the rim to guard the second unit. Derrick White started making shots when he needed to. The Celtics were balanced again and again. Cleveland needs more shooters to break free and make some noise, but Donovan Mitchell is getting the offense going. It's not enough when Boston is firing on all cylinders. , Jared Weis, Celtics beat writer

Cleveland sick without Jarrett Allen

Dean Wade played his first game in two months, but Allen did not join him – and if he had been able to play he could have had a huge impact on this series.

While Wade missed two full months due to a knee sprain and returned to action in Game 3 with 5 points in 16 minutes, Allen missed six consecutive playoff games due to what the team is calling a rib injury. Is. If that's all, Allen could set a modern NBA record for games missed due to that injury. Reporting by athletic And other outlets about how much pain Allen is in — that his rib was “pierced” by the Orlando Magic's Franz Wagner — but that was two weeks ago.

Allen could be a big presence in this series as he will make Al Horford look even more vulnerable. Horford is starting alongside Kristaps Porzin, who may miss the series with a calf injury, and his absence has underlined his importance to Boston. The Celtics showed wisdom in Game 3 and kept Horford close to the paint, leaving Isaac Okoro open to shoot 3s. That's what teams trying to beat the Cavs often do: They force Okoro to shoot. it worked; He missed all four 3s and shot 1 of 7 from the field.

With Allen and Evan Mobley on the court together, yes, the Cavs will be leaving some voids with whom they play so well. But in this particular series, Cleveland may be helped by Boston protecting Allen and Mobley or risk getting destroyed in the lane, which the Cavs were willing to do in Game 2.

Mitchell, still on fire, converted another 33-point game. The Cavs were chasing the 3-pointer and moved away from what was working well in Game 2. They were 12-36 from 3 and 36 of 84 overall – poor shooting numbers due to being the home team, and they wouldn't be good enough to defeat the Celtics if they won.

The Cavs had a little success at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter, even with Mitchell, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert playing a very small role for Sam Merrill. With Horford on the field, it seemed like the pace could be very fast.

The biggest takeaway from Game 3 for the Cavs is that options will remain. Boston didn't seem like a team that had it all figured out yet (not leaving Okoro open to shoot in Game 2 was a basic foul). It's time for Cleveland to find the right combinations and take advantage of them.

It would be easier if Alan could find his way. , Joe Varden, senior NBA writer

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Luka Doncic celebrates during the Mavericks' Game 3 win on Saturday. (Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

Mavericks 105, Thunder 101

series: Dallas leads 2-1

Game 4: on monday in dallas

Thunder's hack strategy doesn't work

The Thunder blew a double-digit lead in the third quarter and entered frustration mode midway through the fourth quarter, trailing by a few points and needing to take the game on the road. So Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault adopted a hack strategy and intentionally fouled rookie center Derek Lively II four times.

This helped in the beginning. Lively, a 50 percent free-throw shooter who had not attempted a single in the first two games of the series, went 1-4 after the first two fouls. The Thunder withdrew, and Mavericks coach Jason Kidd temporarily pulled him.

But Kidd immediately passed back to Lively, and the Thunder fouled twice more. Lively made all four, cutting Dallas' lead to five with 3:06 remaining.

“We like to do it when there is a numerical advantage in doing it. I give lively credit; He made those final four,” Daigneault said of fouling out.

It was enough for the Mavericks to survive, defeating the Thunder to go up 2–1 in the series and perhaps discourage OKC from using the tactic again. Lively finished the night 8-12 on free throws.

The Thunder gave up 15 offensive rebounds, were outscored 52-38 in the paint and remained burning in their willingness to leave Washington open, who has 56 combined points in the two Mavericks wins in this series. It's time to regroup for a suddenly flailing Thunder team. , Anthony Slater, NBA writer

A team effort made this possible for Dallas

Dallas wouldn't have won Game 3 without its entire roster. This is a team built around Doncic, who dominates the opponent's focus and the league's attention in every game. But with Doncic struggling with a knee injury, the Mavericks needed to make their star pick, and they did.

Washington led the team in scoring after his 29-point Game 2 outing. Irving had a lot of talent and scored 22 points on 10 of 17 shooting. When Oklahoma City hacked Lively in the fourth quarter, he started 1-4 on his first two trips and fouled off four in a row.

But on the other end, Doncic rose to the defensive level of his teammates. He took to the floor again and again, fighting his various ailments to participate in every possession. He was joined by everyone around him at full strength: Oklahoma City went through several stretches without the ability to find positive shots.

Lively has been the player who has allowed this the most. Although Lively has impressed since the beginning of his rookie season, he has consistently switched on the Thunder's toughest defenders and has held up despite that in this series.

With the physicality returning in Game 3 that has enabled Dallas' defensive success in the final months of the regular season, this team can once again create a winning recipe on both sides of the court. , Tim Cato, Mavericks beat writer

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(Top photo of Jason Tatum and Evan Mobley: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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