2024 NBA Finals

Finals Alteration: 3 potential adjustments before Game 5 of Celtics-Mavs

Will the Celtics secure the franchise's 18th title at home, or can the Mavericks stay hot on the road?

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving combine for 50 points and Dallas extends its season with a stunning 122-84 rout in Game 4.

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After taking Game 4 to keep their season alive, can the Mavericks stave off elimination again with a win in Boston? Or, will the Celtics celebrate their 18th NBA championship in front of their home fans at TD Garden?

Here are 3 potential adjustments ahead of Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV (8:30 ET, ABC).

1. Play even faster

Game 4 was played at the fastest pace of the series — 96.00 possessions per 48 minutes — and resulted in Dallas’ first win of the Finals. It follows a playoff trend for both teams.

  • Pace above 94.00: Dallas 7-2, Boston 3-2
  • Pacer 94.00 or less: Dallas 6-6, Boston 12-1

“The team that dictates the pace dictates kind of the momentum and the opportunities,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said on Sunday.

For Dallas, it begins with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving attacking the paint. In Game 4, they went a combined 15-for-20 on drives to the basket, scoring 16 points each.

The constant pressure put on the Boston defense also allowed the Mavs to get back to two of their favorite shots — the corner 3-pointer (4-of-7 FG) and the lob (2-of-2 FG) — with their role players knocking down open looks.

The Mavericks must match the energy and pace of Game 4 and should try to play faster and force the Celtics to run with them. As the records above indicate, that is an advantage for the Mavericks.

2. Will Boston close out series in Game 5?

The close-out game is often said to be the toughest game to win. The logic behind the theory is that the team whose season is on the line will play with desperation and energy that its foe cannot match since they are not facing the same consequences.

“Close-out games are hard,” said Celtics forward Jaylen Brown. “They always have been like that, and you’ve got to have extreme focus. You’ve got to come out and meet their intensity to finish things out.”

When the Celtics went up 2-0, Brown talked about trying to manufacture the desperation of the team trailing in the series.

“It’s almost like you got to trick your mind almost in a sense,” he said. “You almost got to play like you’re down 0-2 rather than up. That’s hard to do. You got to go into that mind frame, that focus.”

Whether the Celtics can convince themselves otherwise or not, Boston still has three chances to get the one win they need for title No. 18. But there is an urgency to close out the series at home in Game 5 and avoid having to go back to Dallas for Game 6.

The only question is whether it’s enough to help the Celtics bring the same level of intensity that Dallas showed in Game 4.

3. Control the paint

Dallas has outscored Boston in the paint in each game of this series, so the Celtics have shown they don’t have to win the battle in the paint to win the game. That said, they can’t get annihilated like they did in Game 4.

  • Game 1: 46-38 (+8 Dallas)
  • Game 2: 54-46 (+8 Dallas)
  • Game 3: 52-36 (+16 Dallas)
  • Game 4: 60-26 (+34 Dallas)

In the first two games in Boston, the Celtics kept the paint battle at an eight-point margin each game.

Game 3 saw the Mavs double their margin to 16, taking advantage of the missing 7-foot-3 center Kristaps Porzingis protecting the basket, but the Celtics still prevailed down the stretch.

Game 4 saw the Mavs more than double their margin to 34 as the Celtics were again without Porzingis (he dressed but did not play).

  • Offensive rebounds: 13-4 Mavs (with Lively nearly doubling up Boston by himself with seven)
  • Second-chance Points: 16-2 Mavs
  • Box outs: 12-5

This play epitomizes two key aspects of Dallas’ Game 4 win.

  • First, the Mavs are pushing the ball up the court in transition and cross half court with 21 seconds left on the shot clock
  • Second, watch the clear runway that Josh Green takes as he crashes the offensive glass for an uncontested putback dunk

Can the Celtics clean up this type of play in Game 5? Or can the Mavericks win the paint battle by another huge margin?