Celtics 365: Boston's Point Guard Trio Delivers vs. Dallas, Doncic
At this time last year, the Boston Celtics were just beginning their journey through the 2019-20 NBA campaign. Little did they know at the time that it would wind up being the most unprecedented 365-day trek in NBA history.
It took an entire year to complete the season, as a four-month, midseason hiatus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed playoff basketball all the way into mid-October of 2020. As a result, the beginning of the 2020-21 Season has been pushed back to an undetermined date.
In light of that delay, we want to make sure Celtics basketball remains in your lives this fall, when NBA basketball is usually in full swing. So we’ll be taking you on a 365-day rewind back to last season as we highlight some of the most memorable performances from the campaign - all on the one-year anniversary of each occurrence. We’ll refresh some fun memories while also keeping you in the basketball mindset for when next season begins.
One year ago today, on Nov. 11, 2019, Celtics fans and Mavericks fans alike were treated to one heck of battle at TD Garden. This was more than just a duel between All-Stars Kemba Walker and Luka Donic; this was a triple tag-team effort from both sets of guards with nearly identical results.
Six of the game’s guards combined for 111 points, with Boston’s trio of Walker, Marcus Smart and Brad Wanamaker earning a 56-55 edge over Dallas’ threesome of Doncic, Jalen Brunson and Delon Wright. Those three Celtics ball handlers also came out on top in the clutch, steering Boston to a 116-106 win for its eighth victory in a row.
The two offensive catalysts of this game were Walker and Doncic, who both helped to pick up the slack for their respective star teammates in Jayson Tatum and Kristaps Porzingis, who shot a combined 2-of-29 from the field.
Doncic led the game in both scoring and assists, as he notched 34 points and nine helpers while shooting 11-of-21 from the field and 3-of-10 from 3-point range. Walker trailed his counterpart slightly in both categories with 29 points and five assists, although he was far more efficient shooting the ball, finishing 9-of-17 from the field and a season-best 8-of-14 from deep.
More importantly, Walker was the one who came through when the game was on the line. Midway through the fourth quarter, he knocked down a trio of 3-pointers during a 70-second span to help turn a two-point Boston deficit into a seven-point lead.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, trying to make the right plays," said Walker, who scored 24 of his 29 points during the second half. "My shot felt good the whole night. I was just missing them (during the first half). Then, in the fourth quarter, just naturally, the competitive nature just comes out and I try to do what I can do to put the ball in the basket."
K3MBA! pic.twitter.com/XbSqUIcpns— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 12, 2019
Walker getting hot late was the turning point for the Celtics, as their advantage snowballed all the way up to 14 points before walking away with a 10-point victory. Though, he wasn’t the only hero for the Celtics.
Fellow point guard Marcus Smart, filling in for an injured Gordon Hayward, logged 17 points and a team-high six assists during the victory. His greatest contribution, however, was the tenacious defense he played on Kristaps Porzingis, who, despite being exactly a foot taller than Smart, struggled whenever the guard switched onto him.
“I was just being physical with him,” Smart said after he and his teammates limited Porzingis to a season-low 1-of-11 shooting effort. “I just used my strength and my quickness. Obviously, he has a height advantage over me, so I had to get low and really battle. Really for us, it was keeping our hands back; he loves doing the sweep-through move … It’s kind of hard to guard. So, for us, it was just being as physical as we can, getting our hands up and making him shoot over us.”
Those types of matchups are the ones that Smart always cherishes the most, as it displays the heart-over-height mentality that surely helped him earn his second straight All-Defensive First Team recognition after the season.
“I love it,” Smart said of matching up against bigs. “It’s a challenge that I love every single time I get the call. I pride myself on the defensive end. That’s where I earn my keep. So when I’m matched up against those guys, I never think it’s a disadvantage for me. I think it’s an advantage for me on both ends.”
Another advantage for Boston in this game was having Wanamaker step up off the bench. Filling in for Smart as the second-string point guard, Wanamaker tallied 10 points and four assists off the bench. Eight of those points came during the second-year guard's first nine minutes on the court, which resulted in him being Boston’s second-leading scorer at halftime.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens called Wanamaker’s contributions “excellent” after the game, noting his elevated importance in light of Gordon Hayward fracturing a bone in his left hand two nights prior in San Antonio.
“He's a pretty steady hand in that (second) group right now where we don't have a lot of experience,” Stevens elaborated.
Wanamaker’s steadiness, combined with both Smart’s defensive contributions and Walker’s clutch buckets gave the Celtics just enough to get the edge in this thrilling point guard battle against a playoff-bound Mavericks team and their MVP candidate in Doncic.