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NBA Finals: Best Celtics v Mavericks Matchups

We’re taking a look back at some of the best matchups between the Celtics and Mavericks ahead of the NBA Finals.

While the Boston Celtics have been among the favourites to reach the NBA Finals all season, few expected the Dallas Mavericks to be here. It wasn’t until the trade deadline that they managed to put together a rotation worthy of contending. Even still, to develop cohesion and become one of the better defensive teams in the league came as a surprise.

But here we are: Boston Celtics v Dallas Mavericks. History suggests we’re in for an exciting series defined by close games and clutch moments.

Dirk’s Daggers

Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest Dallas Mavericks player of all time. Regardless of what Luka Doncic does from here, whether he wins the 2023-24 NBA Finals and a few more or not, Dirk will always be #1.

So as we prepare for Doncic to feature in his first finals, it’s fitting that we look back at Dirk with a slant towards the Celtics. One game that comes to mind both as a throwback to basketball of yesteryear and Dirk at his best came in January 2012.

The throwback comes with the 90-85 scoreline. Both teams shot over 36% from beyond the arc but combined for only 27 three-point attempts between them. All 30 teams in the NBA this season averaged more than 30 three-point shot attempts per game. Just five players cracked double-digits in a slow, old-school game that came down to the wire.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle charged out to the free-throw line at one point. He was soon ejected, leaving Dallas to navigate most of the second half without their play caller.

Enter, Nowitzki.

With the game tied at 85 apiece, the big man took on none other than Kevin Garnett.

Driving by the the 12-time All-Defensive representative, Nowitzki pushed through the contact of Brandon Bass and hit the floater.

The and-one all but sealed the win for the Mavericks in an old-school classic.

Just get a load of the names involved: Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, David West and Vince Carter started alongside Nowitzki. For the sickos out there, Yi Jianlian sat on the bench. Meanwhile, the Celtics boasted one of the great starting fives in Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jemaine O’Neal, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen.

Mavs Mount a Comeback

Fast-forward four years, and 37-year-old Nowitzki is still doing it. In fact, he’s got another three NBA seasons in him after the 2015-16 campaign. However, this season marks the last high-quality season from the 14-time All-Star and Hall of Famer.

Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists throughout the 2015-16 season but cleared his average in scoring against the Celtics in this January 2016 contest.

He scored a season-high 31 points, including two massive threes at the end of regulation and in overtime.

While he might have been getting on in age at this point, Dirk never lost his touch from beyond the arc. The Celtics were made to pay for giving the big man his shot in this one.

A Future Finals Matchup

Doncic v Tatum will be one of the defining matchups of the 2023-24 NBA Finals. However, we’re going back to 2018 to when the pair first went head-to-head.

As a rookie in the league and one who came in battling the typical foreign bias that previously plagued NBA fandom, Doncic had already started to announce himself as a future star of the league. While few quite pictured the superstar and best player left in the NBA this season that we have today, he averaged a cool 19.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game heading into his first game against Tatum in November 2018.

Tatum won the battle between the two with 21 points on 9-14 shooting, compared to Doncic’s 15 points and 5-11 from the field. However, it was Luka who won the war, as the Mavericks claimed a 113-104 victory.

He also introduced himself to his current backcourt partner with a bevy of moves that are now synonymous with Luka’s game.

Doncic Does Dirk

Dirk’s ability to come up with the big plays late in games is what made him great.

Luka is crafting a similar legacy.

We can look back to March 2022 in what we hope is a sign of things to come in these NBA Finals.

Doncic’s step-back three with 1:21 left on the clock tied it up. Shortly after the ball swished through the net, the camera panned to Doncic with the now well-known, dead-pan, ‘this is easy’ look across his face. That made it 26 points for him since halftime as he caught fire and rallied the Mavericks back from 12 points down shortly after the break.

Far from only a scorer, Doncic passed the Mavericks to victory in this one. He tried to screen off Brown and onto Robert Williams III. Brown worked his way around the screen, but with Doncic able to breeze by and force Williams III to help, he found an open Spencer Dinwiddie who knocked down the winner.

His ability to create for himself and others is what makes Doncic great, and why the Mavericks are such a threat in this series.

Swap Dinwiddie for Kyrie Irving and Doncic finishing with Over 40.5 points + assists in Game 1 appeals.

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