Saturday’s NBA playoff takeaways: Mavericks take series edge, Celtics bounce back strongly

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

The Boston Celtics bounced back from their embarrassing Game 2 loss to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers and regain the series lead on Saturday, beating the Cavaliers 106-93 in Cleveland.

The Cavs made a spirited comeback attempt 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 protect victory.

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

In the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second straight 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 victory. Star guards Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić both scored 22 points, with Irving dishing out seven assists and Dončić grabbing 15 rebounds.

For the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the only player to score more than 16 points, his 31 being a game-high, as were his five turnovers.

Dallas topped Oklahoma City with 15 offensive rebounds.

Celtics 106, Cavaliers 93

Series: The Celtics lead 2-1

Game 4: Monday in Cleveland

Boston’s defensive intensity returned

The Celtics had a chance to shut the door on Cleveland after taking a 23-point lead early in the third quarter, but the Cavaliers wouldn’t go away. They reduced the deficit to within nine points at the start of the fourth quarter. With the Cleveland crowd going crazy, it could have been a tough time for Boston.

After a timeout, Jayson Tatum ran for a bucket. Moments later, Jaylen Brown drove in another. The Cavaliers kept pace for a while, but could never get closer than nine points the rest of the game. The Celtics had all the answers down the stretch. Brown hit a one-legged runner. Tatum sank a fadeaway jump. Boston’s offense showed itself time and time again.

The Celtics left Game 2 disappointed with their defense. They didn’t believe they showed playoff intensity in this loss. The theme among the players during shootaround Saturday morning was that no matter what they did offensively, they had to work much harder on the other end of the floor. That’s what they did. But they still had to execute on the other end. If they continue to do this in big moments, like they did in Game 3, they will be tough for any opponent to beat. — Jay King, Celtics writer

Tatum still effective despite a bad shot

As this series continues, Tatum’s accurate shooting just isn’t happening. It didn’t matter in Game 3. He was the most aggressive forward he showed in this series, he dominated the boards and was Boston’s best rim protector. Tatum shows that while most stars can’t be stopped from scoring or passing or whatever they do best, Tatum will do everything else at a high level to make an impact.

With Brown shooting the lights again, Boston never disappointed much. Jrue Holiday worked his way to the rim to keep the second unit afloat. Derrick White started hitting shots just when they needed them. These were the balanced Celtics through and through. Cleveland needs more shooters to get loose and make some noise, but Donovan Mitchell is carrying this offense at this point. That’s just not enough when Boston is firing on all cylinders. — Jared Weiss, Celtics beat writer

Cleveland sick without Jarrett Allen

Dean Wade played his first game in two months, but Jarrett Allen didn’t join him – and he could have a huge impact in this series if he was able to play.

While Wade missed two full months with a sprained knee and returned to action in Game 3 for five points in 16 minutes, Allen has now missed six straight playoff games due to what The team calls it a rib contusion. If that’s all, Allen may have set a modern NBA record for games missed due to this injury. There have been reports of Athleticism and other media about Allen’s pain, about his rib being “pierced” by Orlando’s Franz Wagner – but that was two weeks ago.

Allen would have a potentially huge presence in this series as he would make Al Horford even more vulnerable. Horford starts with Kristaps Porziņģis likely out for the series with a calf injury, and his absence highlighted his value to Boston. The Celtics took notice in Game 3 and kept Horford closer to the paint — which left Isaac Okoro wide open to shoot 3s. This is 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 would give up some of the spacing they play so well with. But in this particular series, Cleveland might be helped by the fact that Boston must guard Allen and Mobley or risk being gutted in the lane — something the Cavs showed themselves willing to do in Game 2.

Mitchell is still hot, coming off another 33-point game. The Cavs seemed to be chasing the 3-pointer and getting away from what worked so well in Game 2. They were 12 of 36 from 3 and 36 of 84 overall — bad shooting numbers to be the team local that is wrong. be good enough to beat the Celtics.

The Cavs had minimal success late in the third and early in the fourth quarter, also playing Sam Merrill with Mitchell, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert. The Celtics with Horford on the floor looked like the pace might be too fast.

The biggest takeaway from Game 3 for the Cavs is that options remain. Boston didn’t look like a team that had it all figured out yet (not leaving Okoro open to shoot in Game 2 was a fundamental malpractice on the Celtics’ part). It’s time for Cleveland to find the right combinations and exploit them.

It would be easier if Allen could find his way back. — Joe Vardon, Senior NBA Writer

Luka Dončić celebrates during the Mavericks’ Game 3 win on Saturday. (Photo: Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

Mavericks 105, Thunder 101

Series: The Mavericks lead 2-1

Game 4: Monday in Dallas

Thunder hack strategy not working

The Thunder blew a double-digit lead in the third quarter and entered desperation mode midway through the fourth, trailing by a handful of points and needing to extend the game. So Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault opted for the hacking strategy, intentionally fouling rookie center Dereck Lively II four times.

This helped at first. Lively, a 50 percent free throw shooter who hadn’t attempted one in the first two games of the series, made 1 of 4 after the first two fouls. The Thunder backed off and Mavericks coach Jason Kidd temporarily pulled him.

But Kidd quickly got back on Lively and the Thunder committed two more fouls. Lively made all four, increasing Dallas’ lead to five with 3:06 remaining.

“We like to do it when there’s a numerical advantage to do it. I give Lively credit; he’s been successful these last four games,” Daigneault said of the foul committed after the game.

It was enough for the Mavericks to survive, beating the Thunder to go 2-1 in this series and perhaps discouraging OKC from using this strategy again. Lively finished the night 8 of 12 on free throws.

The Thunder allowed 15 offensive rebounds, were outscored 52-38 in the paint and continue to get burned by their willingness to leave Washington open, which has 56 points combined in the Mavericks’ two wins in this series. It’s regrouping time for a Thunder team that’s suddenly stumbling. — Anthony Slater, NBA writer

The entire team’s effort for Dallas achieves this

Dallas will not win Saturday’s third game without its entire roster. This is a team built around Dončić, a basketball savant who naturally commands the attention of the opponent and the league every night. But with Dončić hampered by a knee injury, the Mavericks needed to get their star back – and did.

Washington led the team in scoring, after its 29-point outing in Game 2. Irving had some bright stretches, finishing with 20 points on 10-of-17 shooting. When Oklahoma City hacked Lively for a while in the fourth quarter, he started 1 of 4 in his first two trips and followed that up with four goals consecutive.

But on the other side, Dončić got on the defensive level of his teammates. He hit the floor again and again, battling his various illnesses to compete in every possession. He was joined by the full force of everyone around him: Oklahoma City went through several periods without being able to find positive shots.

Lively was the player who most enabled this. Although Lively has impressed since the start of his rookie season, what he has done in this series is consistently lean on the Thunder’s toughest defenders and hold his own despite it.

With the return of physicality in this third game, which allowed Dallas’ defensive success during the last months of the regular season, this team can once again develop winning recipes on both ends of the field. — Tim Cato, the Mavericks beat the writer

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(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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