Wednesday’s NBA playoffs takeaways: Celtics stomp Heat to advance, Mavericks coast past Clippers

By Jared Weiss, Jay King, Will Guillory, Law Murray and Tim Cato

The Dallas Mavericks earned a dominant 123-93 victory over the LA Clippers to move within one win of a first-round series victory.

Luka Dončić had his best game of the 2024 playoffs so far, totaling 35 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Five other Mavericks had double-digit points, including three reserves.

If the Clippers fall in Game 6, Wednesday night will have marked the franchise’s final game at Arena.

Mavericks 123, Clippers 93

Series: The Mavericks lead 3-2

Game 6: Friday in Dallas

Doncic’s best game

During the morning shootaround before the Mavericks’ Game 5 victory, Dončić said he “probably” would not play because of a sprained knee. He suffered it early in Game 3, but fell short of his high standards in all four games. The shine just wasn’t as sustained or consistent as it usually is.

And then Doncić had his best game of this series, a 35-point performance in which he added 10 assists and seven rebounds. He was decisive and physical, entering the paint with the size and assured confidence he has always had in his career. And when Dončić goes up, so do his teammates around him.

Dallas’ stifling defense was present again in Wednesday’s dominant victory: the Clippers shot just 14 of 35 at the rim, completely unable to create shots near the rim. But Los Angeles was even colder behind the arc, following up the torrid Game 4 performance with a dismal 6-of-30 performance before Tyronn Lue pulled his starters on Wednesday.

What made it a blowout in the second half was Dončić’s offense and enough players joining him, especially Maxi Kleber’s 5-of-7 shooting from deep and Derrick’s 12 points Jones Jr. It was a dominant display from the team that Dallas believed in it. can be, and another performance like this will advance Dallas to the next round. — Tim Cato, the Mavericks beat the writer

The Clippers foiled by a bad shot

Shooting played a major role in the Clippers’ ability to beat the Mavericks without Kawhi Leonard available. They made 18 3s each in Games 1 and 4. They made 18 3s combined in Games 2 and 3.

Taking pictures allows you to do two things. This obviously helps you score, but it also keeps you locked in defensively. Missed shots can mentally disrupt a player, and the defense needed to stay in a game may not stay together the longer the bad offense goes on.

The Clippers struggled with their outside shooting throughout the game, missing 7 of 10 shots from outside the paint in the first quarter. But they were still tied to the Mavericks, trailing only 25-24.

But the defense began to break down in the second quarter, although the Mavericks also missed shots. Kleber had several corner 3s to play as part of a 12-point second quarter. He made 4 of 6 3s in the period. Kleber’s teammates missed all six attempts; Dončić and Kyrie Irving were 0 of 8 from 3 at halftime. But the Clippers missed all seven 3-point attempts in the second quarter and were 3 of 15 from 3 at halftime, while missing their only two 2-point attempts without the paint.

The Mavericks led 56-46 at halftime, but the Clippers still couldn’t find the margin in the third quarter, missing 7 of 10 3s. Their time expired during that period, with the Mavericks reaching 4 of 9 3. And the trend continued until the end of the match, since the Clippers made only 9 of 35 3s, a rate of 25.7% and just within the average established for their defeats in the series.

The hardest part for the Clippers was that the Mavericks stars weren’t that much better. Dončić and Irving made just 3 of 15 3s, the halftime total for the Clippers. But teammates Doncic and Irving made 12 of 25 3s (48%).

Not shooting the ball well is one thing for the Clippers, but this was a blowout as they stopped defending as the game went on and the misses piled up. — Law Murray and the Clippers beat the writer

Series: The Celtics advance (4-1)

The Celtics succeed in their first game without Kristaps Porziņģis

The Celtics easily cruised past Miami to win the series in five games, so there was no clear indication of how the big man rotation would work in the second round, with Kristaps Porziņģis likely missing time.

“I’m not sure,” Joe Mazzulla said when asked for a timetable. “We’ll just give him a week, kind of see where he’s at, see how he responds to treatment over the next week or so.”

Al Horford only had to play 23 minutes while Luke Kornet played 18, but Horford never had to return for the fourth quarter. Will the Celtics play Kornet deep in the fourth quarter next round so Horford can step in for more crunch time? Will they bring in Xavier Tillman to ease the burden of Horford’s minutes?

Jarrett Allen missed Game 5 for Cleveland with a rib injury, so his absence would affect Boston’s reliance on a center throughout the game if Cleveland advances. Orlando has size and power at all levels, so will Boston use Tillman instead of Kornet? The Celtics showed in this series against Miami that they can respond well to adversity. But their next opponent will have a clear home-court advantage and will likely give the Celtics a more serious test. — Jared Weiss, Celtics beat writer

The Celtics showed much-needed urgency

In recent years, the Celtics have played long series almost exclusively. Not in the first round. They showed urgency in Game 5 to take care of business, knock out Miami and give themselves a few extra days off. Boston took away all the suspense in the first half while building a 30-point lead, then never let Miami get any closer in the second half. In the deciding game of the series, Jayson Tatum only needed to play 32 minutes and Jaylen Brown only played 26. The Celtics closed out the game with a bench lineup consisting of Svi Mykhailiuk, Oshae Brissett, Tillman, Jaden Springer and Payton Pritchard.

Against an eight seed missing three starters, Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier and Jaime Jaquez Jr., the Celtics did what they were supposed to do. After dropping the second game of the series, they increased their intensity and shut down the Heat’s offense over the next three games. Miami made just three 3-pointers in Game 5 while failing to produce any type of consistent scoring.

The Celtics will face tougher competition in the later rounds. At least for the start of the second round, they will be without Porziņģis. But they dominated without him throughout the regular season and once again looked great without him in Game 5. By capitalizing on their first chance to close out the series, they made their playoff journey a little easier and kept extra miles on the sidelines. — Jay King, Celtics beat writer

Where does Miami go from here?

The Heat’s season came to a horrible end tonight and now they’re preparing for another summer filled with questions about how they can strengthen this roster and become a championship contender again.

Once Butler injured his knee in Miami’s Play-In tournament loss to Philadelphia, the chances of putting any pressure on Boston in this series were slim to none. But it’s been two straight seasons since the Heat entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.

There were already efforts to pursue Damian Lillard last offseason after he appeared in the NBA Finals. And after having such a poor season this season, Miami will almost certainly be back on the market looking for another star who can provide more juice to an offense that has been below average during each of the two recent seasons.

Then there are also the questions about Butler as he heads into the final season of his current contract. Miami will have the chance to sign him to an extension before the start of next season. But if the two sides can’t reach an agreement, would Miami consider a future without Butler? Would Butler try to force his way through?

Miami will have some tough decisions to make. Is the front office committing even more to this current version of the team or starting to explore ways to rebuild it? The presence of Bam Adebayo makes the future a little less fragile. But he needs more contributors around him who can be part of the future and help him find his way back to the top of the East. — Will Guillory, NBA writer

On the program for Thursday:

Required reading

(Photo: Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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