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3 potential adjustments before Game 3 of NBA Finals

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Mavs players not named Luka Doncic are a combined 5-of-32 from deep in the Finals. How can they get on track?

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After a strong win in Game 2, can Boston build a 3-0 series lead? Or, will Dallas get its first win in Wednesday’s matchup?

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


1. Will home rims be kind to Mavs’ shooters?

The Mavs must find points from players other than Luka Doncic, who is averaging a series-high 31 points per game — twice as many as Dallas’ second-leading scorer P.J. Washington (15.5).

  • Kidd: “We’ve got to score the ball, and right now, we’ve got to find someone to join Luka and Kai in that scoring category.”

A common playoff refrain is that role players shoot better at home. This has held throughout Dallas’ run to the Finals as evidenced by these shooting splits for all players not named Doncic or Kyrie Irving.

  • Home: 48.6% shooting from the field, 38% from 3-point range
  • Road: 46.1% shooting from the field, 34.7% from 3-point range

In the first two games of the Finals in Boston, Dallas’ role players combined to shoot 45% from the field (comparable to what they had done in previous rounds), but just 20.5% from 3-point range.

The Mavs are shooting 24.5% (13-of-53) from 3-point range as a team. If we remove Doncic’s 8-of-21, the rest of the squad is shooting just 15.6% (5-of-32). Of those 32 3-point attempts, 29 are either open (closest defender 4-6 feet away) or wide open (closest defender 6+ feet away).

  • Mavs are 5-of-23 on open 3s: Luka (5-of-14), All other Mavs (0-9)
  • Mavs are 6-of-24 on wide-open 3s: Luka (2-of-4), All other Mavs (4-of-20)

The Mavs’ role players must come close to the shooting percentage on open/wide-open 3s that they had on the road to the Finals if they hope to get back in the series. Will the change in venue help make that happen?


2. Exploit interior matchups

In Game 2, Jayson Tatum defended Daniel Gafford for a team-high 4:49 of matchup time — three minutes more than any other player (Horford 1:49) with Jaylen Brown and Derrick White combining for another 2:15.

Gafford had two points at the half, but scored 11 in the second half, taking advantage of post-ups and pick-and-roll plays with Irving to get scoring opportunities around the basket.

If the Celtics continue to use smaller players against Dallas’ big, the Mavs must exploit these size mismatches and make the Celtics pay.

If Kristaps Porzingis did aggravate his leg injury (Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said after Game 2 the big man is fine), Boston’s frontline will be diminished by his absence. That only opens more opportunities for Dallas’ bigs.

Maximizing opportunities in the paint could be rewarding for Dallas in Game 3.


3. Limit costly mistakes

Some of the most popular words during Dallas’ postgame news conferences focused on turnovers and free throws.

  • Free throws: Game 2’s final margin (105-98) of seven points matches the disparity in missed free throws during the game — Dallas (16-of-24) missed eight, while Boston (19-of-20) missed one.
  • Turnovers: Dallas committed 15 turnovers in Game 2, which Boston converted into 21 points. Boston committed only 10 turnovers for 12 Dallas points. That nine-point differential was enough to make up for the final score margin.
  • Kidd: “We’ve got to take care of the ball. If we can take care of the ball, hopefully that gives us more opportunities at scoring.”

The numbers on the season back up the importance of Dallas limiting its turnovers.

  • When committing 15+ turnovers: The Mavs are 15-19 (.441) in the regular season and playoffs
  • When committing less than 15 turnovers: The Mavs are 47-20 (.701) in the regular season and playoffs

Dallas doesn’t have to play a perfect game to beat Boston and get into this series. But if the Mavs can reduce their mistakes, their chances improve.

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