Celtics-Mavericks Takeaways: Tatum Wins Battle for MVP Frontrunners originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Luka Doncic put on a show at TD Garden on Wednesday night, but it was the Boston Celtics who came out victorious with a 125-112 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The C’s broke out for 70 points in the first half. They took a 21-point lead going into the third quarter and while the Mavs made things interesting along the way, it was too little too late against Jayson Tatum and Co.
Tatum (37 points) took on Doncic (42 points) in the battle of MVP front runners. The difference was that Tatum had help from his supporting cast. Jaylen Brown (31 points) supported Doncic’s claim that he and Tatum are the best duo in the NBA. Six Celtics players scored in double figures.
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Next for the Celtics is a Friday night showdown with the Sacramento Kings. Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s win that brings their record to 14-4.
Jayson Tatum’s ankle is fine
Tatum’s status for this game was in question, as he was listed on the Celtics’ injury report on Tuesday with a sprained left ankle. He was cleared to play less than two hours before tip-off and the injury didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest.
Most NBA players would love to finish a game with Tatum’s first half stats. The Celtics star entered the half with 23 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block.
In the clash of MVP candidates, Tatum made a statement against odds-on favorite Doncic. Midway through the third quarter, he recorded his eighth double-double of the season. He put an exclamation mark on the matchup when he blew past Doncic for a dunk late in the fourth quarter, then disqualified on the brink shortly after.
Tatum finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. The 24-year-old again excelled in reaching the charity line, shooting 13 of 15 from the line. That remains a recipe for success.
Luka Doncic can’t do everything
Doncic did his best to get his team on his back. The NBA scoring leader and MVP league leader had a game-high 42 points on 17-for-28 shooting. It was another MVP-caliber performance from the Mavs superstar, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the more balanced Celtics.
The standout stat for Doncic: only one assist until 3:57 in the third quarter. The inability to get others involved – something Doncic usually excels at (8.1 assists per game) – was a problem for most of the evening. Although he finished with nine assists and helped Dallas rally in the second half, it was much too late.
Doncic also finished with nine rebounds. The 23-year-old becomes the second-fastest player in NBA history with more than 7,500 points, more than 2,000 rebounds and more than 2,000 assists, behind only the great Oscar Robertson.
As the Celtics recovered from Monday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, so did Al Horford.
Shrugging off his 0-for-9 (0-7 3-PT) performance, the veteran big man was key to Boston’s victory on Wednesday night. In fact, he was perfect. He drilled all four of his 3-point attempts to finish 5-for-5 from the floor.
Horford ended his night with a clutch 3 that extended the Celtics’ lead to 12 points with 3:23 left in the fourth quarter. The 36-year-old added five rebounds, four assists and a block to help Boston to a win.
Obviously, the bad night against Chicago was just a blip on the radar. So far in November, Horford has only scored under 10 points in 10 games twice and shot 55 percent from the floor. He will try to keep it up against Sacramento on Friday.