Mavericks have few comeback hopes vs. Celtics. Plus, Caitlin Clark’s Olympic snub

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I can’t be the only one dying for episode three of “Clipped” on Tuesday, right? I got a fever, and the only cure is more “Clipped!”

Boston Up 2-0

Celtics lock up Mavs, halfway to 18th banner

If, prior to Game 2, I told the Mavericks Jayson Tatum would have 18 points on 6-of-22 shooting, the Celtics would be 10 of 39 from deep, Luka Dončić would have a 32-point triple-double, and Dallas would limit Boston to 105 points at home, they would have been so happy about a 1-1 split going back to Dallas. Instead, the Celtics’ defense continued to suffocate the Mavericks beyond Dončić, so Boston heads to Dallas up 2-0 after a 105-98 victory.

Maybe Jason Kidd calling Jaylen Brown the Celtics’ best player got into Tatum’s head, given his shooting. His shooting struggles for the series continued (12 of 38), but his passing was brilliant in Game 2. He had 12 assists while absorbing the attention the Mavericks threw his way, and kept finding cutters for easy buckets. Jrue Holiday was the biggest beneficiary of that court vision, scoring 13 points on six dimes from Tatum. Holiday actually led the Celtics in scoring with 26 points, and 10 of his 11 baskets were at the rim.

Derrick White had big play after big play en route to 18 points, and his 4-of-10 shooting from 3-point range was the big jolt in an otherwise rough shooting night for the Celtics. Kristaps Porziņģis didn’t have the same impact as Game 1, but he still scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes off the bench.

The Mavericks got a bad shooting game from Boston, saw Dončić pull off a triple-double, and they outscored the Celtics from the paint. And yet Dallas still lost because Boston can ruin your life on defense despite struggling on offense. The Celtics are now two wins away from finally grabbing that 18th championship banner and being validated for knocking on the door the last eight years.

Three momentum-shifting moments:

  1. Payton Pritchard’s heave. At the end of the third quarter, Pritchard launched a wild 3-point attempt as the buzzer was about to sound. At this point, he’d yet to hit a shot in the series, but the 26-year-old didn’t hesitate to let it fly. Instead of the Celtics being up just six heading into the fourth as Dallas was feeling good about itself, Boston led by nine.
  2. The double block on P.J. Washington. First and foremost, this should have been a foul on Brown for a push in the back on Washington as he sped up the floor looking for a dunk to cut the lead to three with 50 seconds left. Instead, the foul wasn’t called, Washington tried the dunk, and Derrick White blocked the shot along with Brown (though Brown wasn’t credited for his rejection). Twenty seconds later, Brown made a layup to seal the deal.
  3. Kristaps Porziņģis hobbling. This is more of a potential momentum-shifter, but Porziņģis had an awkward tumble to the floor trying to challenge Washington inside. He limped around and eventually left the game. Porziņģis and Joe Mazzulla both said he’s fine for next game, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Set your 📅: Game 3 is Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

The Latest From Shams

Clark left off Team USA’s Olympic roster

Indiana Fever rookie sensation Caitlin Clark is expected to be left off the 12-player Team USA women’s basketball roster for the upcoming Summer Olympics, according to sources briefed on the decision.

Joe Vardon, Mark Puleo, Ben Pickman, Chantel Jennings and I have more details on the decision here, but the roster indicates a preference for veterans with the selection of former WNBA MVPs A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart, five-time Olympic gold medalist Diana Taurasi and others.

Through 12 games this season, Clark, the top pick in April’s WNBA Draft, leads the Fever (3-9) with 16.8 points and 6.3 assists per game.

Kyrie-vival Coming?

Mavericks need their second star to show up

Two games into the 2024 NBA Finals has everybody wondering where Kyrie Irving is. He shot poorly in Game 1, said he thought the TD Garden crowd in Boston would be louder, and prepared to bounce back in Game 2. He then had another stinker in Game 2, meaning he’s averaging 14 points on 35.1 percent shooting (13 of 37) through two games of action. He’s also 0-of-8 from 3-point range in this series.

This isn’t the Irving we saw against Minnesota. It’s not the Irving we saw against the Clippers either. And this sounds weird to say about Kyrie of all people, but he’s really struggled to dribble the ball against this Celtics team so far. So few of his moves have been clean, and he’s bobbled the ball more than you’d ever assume. Some of this is due to the Celtics’ brilliant defensive pressure. They’re strong, quick and great at anticipating what even what Irving is able to do with the ball. We’ve seen flashes of normal Irving, but the consistency has been nonexistent.

The 32-year-old mentioned after Game 2 last night that he’s been through this before. I’m not sure you can just outright draw on the 2016 finals as a point of hope for Irving, but through the first two games of the 2016 series against the Warriors, Irving had been pretty bad. He had scored 36 points on 36 shots, making just one-third of his attempts through the first two games of that series.  The next three games in 2016, he averaged 35 points with 55.6/50.0/90.0 shooting splits. The Cavs got back in the series, and we all remember the big shot Irving hit to end those finals. The Mavs will need that kind of revival from Irving in order to survive this series. It’s their best hope to make this matchup 2-2 heading back to Boston for Game 5.

Other Dallas Fixes?

Three other things the Mavs need to win Game 3

Game 3 is a must-win for the Mavericks. That much is obvious. As a reminder: Teams are 0-156 in NBA history when trailing 3-0 in a series, and Dallas doesn’t want to become the 10th team in NBA Finals history to get swept. Here are three things they have to change from Game 2 and the series overall.

  1. These Dončić turnovers must stop: Maybe some of this is due to Irving’s inability to be a positive factor on offense, but Dončić tried too many cute passes and daring tosses to teammates against active Celtics hands. Boston generated 11 points off Dončić’s eight turnovers, which pretty much explains the game.
  2. The Mavericks need to make some 3-pointers: Through Game 2, the Mavs are just 13 of 53 (24.5 percent) from downtown. Just 32.3 percent of their shot attempts are coming from 3-point range, which is a far cry from their 44.1 percent clip in the regular season. Boston has done a brilliant job of limiting corner attempts and good looks in general. Washington, Derrick Jones Jr. and others just don’t look ready to shoot.
  3. Keep hammering the paint: The Mavs got their first lob to the rim in Game 2, and they actually scored 54 points in the paint. That’s something they have to continue doing. Dallas managed to get some easy dunks and easy floaters for their big men in the lane. They have to feast out there. Boston will only allow that for so long before collapsing more.

Bounce Passes

Adam Silver reflects on when Kyrie Irving mired himself in social media controversy.

Six teams have won the NBA Finals after missing the postseason the previous year. Here’s how they did it.

Bulls icon Chet Walker passed away at the age of 84. Rest in power, Jet.

(Top photo: Maddie Meyer  / Getty Images )

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