Vs Dallas 1/4: Farewell, Dirk (probably)

FINAL: Boston: 114 Dallas: 93

While this was all about Dirk in the end, there was still a basketball game for the Celtics last night against an up and coming Mavericks team led by whizkid Luka Doncic. It is very much documented that here at VFTW we are Pro-Luka (honestly who isn’t) and it was a good test for the Celtics while they were down Kyrie, Morris, Baynes, and Williams.

Doncic came as advertised and had a solid night with 19 points and his share of theatrics. His game’s so smooth and he delivered with some crazy three pointers, including this one to end the first half.

What a stud this dude is and I’m all in on him taking over as the face of the Mavericks for the next 10+ years.

Jaylen Brown got the nod alongside the usual starters in Morris’ absence and he did not disappoint. Posting a team-high 21 points on 9-15 from the floor and was also a +20 (tied with Theis for a team-high).

He’s starting to utilize his shooting touch in the paint and has started incorporating short-fadeaways and such into his game more than we’ve seen in the past.

I would much rather him do more of that than jacking up threes (he’s been better with that lately). with his ability to get to the rim, having these short pull-ups will open even more lanes up and provide him more room to operate. I also hope his injured right hand is fine after some jamoke high-fived him too hard as he exited the court.

Other than Brown, two guys really stood out to me in this one and it was Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward.  I’ll start out with Smart, 17 points on 6-11 from the floor and 5-8 from three point range. He’s shooting a career high 33.8% from out there and for Marcus Smart, you will take that every single day of the week. He makes plays and his passing was on display as well with this sweet feed to Hayward for the bucket

That pass is right on the money and he couldn’t have put it in a better spot. On top of his work on offense he made it difficult for his opposition as he held his matchups to 8-20 from the floor (Doncic to 6-13) and forced 2 turnovers.

As for Gordon Hayward, he followed up his big performance at the Garden with another formidable effort and almost picked up his first triple double of his career. He had 16 points, 11 boards, and 8 assists in what was his best all-around effort of the year. He said postgame that his teammates were pushing him to go for the achievement and he nearly got it late. This was the exact follow up he needed to his best game in Celtic green and he’s showing flashes of his old self.

He’s cutting hard, making decisions on instinct (rather than thinking too much), and he’s looking as confident as I’ve ever seen him so far with the Celtics. He’s doing things a lot quicker and his offense is opening up his passing game which is yielding results. I personally love his pass to Semi on the break for the layup, that’s such a tough pass to time and put on the money like that and Hayward made it look easy.

On the topic of passing, the Celtics had their best assist effort of the season tallying 35. Up and down the roster the passing was at another level and the ball moved effortlessly through the offense. I loved the unselfish nature of it and the players are carving out their roles but not over-compenasting by passing too much like they did early in the year. It felt like for a while that they’d either all play for themselves or pass too much and it was a step in the right direction to see it all come together in that aspect of the game. They shot 46.7% from deep and were converting the quality passes into baskets which made the offense run at peak efficiency even with so many guys out with injuries.

Their defense was also promising as lately the Celtics have been giving up a ton of points (113.2 opponent points per game their last 11 games) and were able to hold the Mavericks, who score 110.4 points per game, to 93. They made an effort to lock down on the defensive end and it paid off as the Mavericks shot 38.6% from the field and 25% from deep. The Celtics also held the edge in steals (12 to 9) and blocks (4 to 2) as they were solid on both sides of the ball all night long.

This is the part of the recap where I show my appreciation to one of the best players I have seen in my lifetime. The first jersey I ever owned was a Dirk Nowitzki one and I will always have the utmost respect for him. How many times have I done a fadeaway off of one foot to shoot my laundry into the hamper? Too many times, and that’s all Dirk. 21 seasons, 13 All-Star appearances, 12 Time All-NBA, an MVP, and most importantly, an NBA Championship. Every single one of his 1481 games were played in Maverick’s blue and that’s something we may not see again. He was always a gamer and my favorite NBA Finals (other than 07-08 of course) was his triumph over LeBron and the Heat in 2011.

As usual, the Celtic faithful showed their respect for the game and gave Dirk a standing ovation as he walked out onto the Garden floor for probably the last time. The whole arena also wanted him to hit a shot more than anything on the entire planet

It was a spectacle in which you’d think Dirk played his entire career as a Celtic. Unfortunately enough, he went 0-10 on the night and finished one-point shy of Kobe Bryant for most points in the Garden by an opposing Western-Conference player. Can someone tell Yabu to relax and let Dirk hit a shot? Brad should have him run steps for that as I was shocked at how hard he was defending Dirk late. While it wasn’t the storybook ending he would’ve scripted, he showed his appreciation to the fans and city in his postgame interview.

After taking care of business on a fun night at the home the Celtics await the the Brooklyn Nets who are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now winning 9 of their last 12 games.

-Chuck

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