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Celtics Lose Game 4 as Mavs Avoid Elimination 122-84

DALLAS — Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, Oshae Brissett, Svi Mykhailiuk and Luke Kornet stepping into a 36-point game in the second half didn’t project to look like this.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown weren’t celebrating on the sideline. Kristaps Porziņģis wasn’t stepping off the floor following his victory lap, or any stint. He didn’t play in a 100-65 loss. The Celtics didn’t win banner 18 on Friday with a sweep. They’ll try again in five.

Luka Doncic scored 29 points on 12-for-26 with 29 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, answering calls to improve on defense. Tatum sat with foul trouble in the third, finishing with 15 points and combining to shoot 7-for-22 alongside Brown.

Dallas stayed in its starting lineup while Porzingis tested his leg out both three hours before game time and in layup lines with trainers watching carefully. He didn’t sub into the game though, Xavier Tillman Sr. did again, and after Dereck Lively II did his best impression of Tillman with a right corner three, Tillman poured in a driving and-one past the 20 year old to pull Boston back within one point after the Celtics and Mavs traded leads four times in front of a conflicted crowd that featured more rows of green than two nights earlier.

Doncic fared better, starting 4-of-6 with 10 points in seven minutes, attacking Tillman, White and others. Jaylen Brown hit him with an early foul, but Tatum stepped-back on an early attempt, letting him off the hook and missing as part of a 5-for-15 (33.3% FG) Celtics start on offense. Boston trialed by 13 through the first quarter, a similar deficit to the one (12) they fell behind by in Game 3, but this time they shot 38.1%, compared to 45% in Game 3, turned it over twice as much and gave up a 6-0 run to close the frame compared to the 5-0 they cut Dallas’ lead to one behind two nights earlier.

The Mavs swiped away at Tatum on the drive and he settled for a three again late in the quarter after Jrue Holiday gave the ball away on back-to-back possessions. Derrick Jones Jr. got in Tatum’s face, who turned away after the referees quickly intervened. Brown said a word, but the Celtics didn’t answer into the second, Dallas riding badly needed contributions by Jones through an alley-oop dunk and a PJ Washington three into a personal 5-0 Dante Exum run to begin the second. Officials briefly erased the last three of those points in timeout, Exum stepped out of bounds, but he got them back five plays later. Dallas led 17 after Boston fell into an 0-for-3 drought with two turnovers between quarters, Joe Mazzulla’s nightmare.

That deficit mounted to 26 by halftime, Daniel Gafford grabbing one of eight Dallas offensive rebounds in the half, the Mavs turning four misses from three into second chance points. Irving saved a loose ball along the sideline and lobbed it right into Doncic’s hands underneath the rim for a three-point play. Doncic ended the half with 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting, ending the run of Boston’s role players successfully guarding him and adding some flare by faking a step-through into a floater from three with a drop-off past to Irving, who beat Holiday downhill. The Celtics needed a run into the break to have a chance, and after Sam Hauser and Holiday broke a 4-for-17 and 1-for-6 slump from three, Maxi Kleber hit a pair of free throws and a three over Tatum to restore the lead. Boston shot 29.7% overall.

Gafford added to the list of Mavs players who found their role, scoring six straight Dallas points and blocking Tatum at the three-point line, sending him to the bench with four fouls and landing on the floor chasing the loose ball. He banged on the floor, yelling, and instilling some belief in the Mavs, who shot ahead by 33 points plays later on a Jones three. Mazzulla called his sixth timeout before the end of the third and emptied the bench.

Bobby Manning

Boston Celtics beat reporter for CLNS Media and host of the Garden Report Celtics Post Game Show. NBA national columnist for Boston Sports Journal. Contributor to SB Nation's CelticsBlog. Host of the Dome Theory Sports and Culture Podcast on CLNS. Syracuse University 2020.

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