The Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks tried to stun another one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference after snapping the Milwaukee Bucks 18-game win streak just days ago.
The Boston Celtics - led by their scoring trio of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum - were not going to let Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks catch them by surprise.
Walker, Brown and Tatum combined for 82 points in the Celtics 109-103 win over Dallas. The Mavericks supporting cast gave them all they could handle, but Walker shut things down with 13 points in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
For more on this interconference thriller, we have you covered with takeaways below.
Kemba and the Jay's
The Celtics entered this game with a short roster with key players like Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart out of the lineup. That required their Big 3 of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to handle the bulk of the scoring and the trio did just that.
Walker set the tone early with an explosive 16 points in the first quarter. Brown then took the baton and dropped 10 points in the second quarter. Tatum was the team's leading scorer in the third frame with nine points, before Walker shut the door on the Mavericks' hopes with a killer 13 points in the final quarter.
Kemba finished the game with a team-high 32 points. Jaylen was right behind him with 26 points with Jayson trailing with 24 points. Boston's three leading scorers combined for a daunting 82 points, accounting for 75.2% of the team's scoring total.
☘️ @KembaWalker (32), @FCHWPO (26), & @jaytatum0 (24) combine for 82 in the @celtics road win in Dallas! #Celtics pic.twitter.com/XIehvucGIo- NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2019
Walker has been on another level as of late, averaging 35.0 points and 6.0 assists shooting 49.3% from the field and 44.7% from three.
Brown took his game to another level once Hayward went down with his broken hand and hasn't let off the gas since, averaging career-highs in points (19.6), rebounds (7.0), assists (2.1) and steals (1.1) per game.
Tatum has been a scoring constant for the Celtics, reaching double-figures in every game aside from one. Although his efficiency has been down, he's still averaging a career-highs in points (20.8), rebounds (7.0), assists (2.8) and steals (1.4).
These three players aren't going to make voting for the Eastern Conference All-Stars easy.
Porzingis steps up again
Kristaps Porzingis has had to fill in as Dallas' No. 1 option with Luka Doncic out of the lineup and he's been great in doing so.
With 23 points and 13 rebounds against the Celtics, he has now recorded three-straight 20-10 double-doubles since Doncic's injury. This is an encouraging sign as Porzingis' play was a bit underwhelming to start the season - though part of that could be in comparison to how bright Doncic was shining.
He put the ball on the floor, hit more deep 3s, and finished strong around the basket. Tonight was another strong showing from @kporzee! #MFFL pic.twitter.com/wYktfcyOpm- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 19, 2019
He took advantage of an undersized Celtics team in the paint and on the glass, and he also recorded three blocks, two assists and one steal to add to a solid game.
Porzingis' foul trouble cost him late in the game, fouling out with 47 seconds left trailing by eight points, but prior to that he had kept Dallas in the game.
Over the three games without Doncic, Porzingis is averaging 23.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.3 blocks.
Mavericks supporting cast
Luka Doncic went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter of the Mavericks' game against the Miami Heat over the weekend. The Heat blew things open immediately but Dallas' supporting cast did not quit, coming back from down by as much as 23 points to force overtime. They fell in OT, but it was a good showing from the Mavericks "other guys."
Earlier this week, Dallas - without their MVP candidate - was tasked with the nearly impossible in trying to de-throne the Milwaukee Bucks' 18-game win streak. Their supporting cast had another great outing, stunning the NBA universe by snapping the Bucks' streak despite a 44-point outburst from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
If you thought that was a fluke, think again.
Now hosting another Eastern Conference powerhouse without Doncic, the Mavericks took the Celtics to the wire in a tight game that had seven ties and nine lead changes.
As mentioned above Porzingis did his job filling in as the team's go-to guy, but players like Seth Curry and Jalen Brunson, among others, stepped up again to keep things competitive.
Curry scored 20-plus points off the bench for the second-consecutive game. Brunson has had back-to-back double-doubles in points and assists for the first time in his young career filling in for Doncic at point guard.
Guys like Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Delon Wright and Tim Hardaway Jr. are playing hard to keep this team afloat while Doncic is out.
Doncic runs the show, there's no question about that. But I think we're starting to see there's more to this team than their 20-year-old superstar, even with two losses in three games with him out of the lineup.
More trouble for Hayward
Before the start of the game, head coach Brad Stevens told reporters that Gordon Hayward received an MRI on his left foot - an injury from earlier in the season that had been bothering him before he was forced to miss 13 games with a broken hand.
The MRI showed no structural damage, but Hayward received a cortisone shot to try and play in this contest against the Mavericks and his foot did not respond well.
After returning from that broken hand, Hayward played in three games averaging just 14.0 points. 4.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds shooting 55.9% from the field and 29.0% from beyond the arc. This game against Dallas was the first contest he had missed since the hand injury, but it appears he will be sidelined a bit longer with this foot issue.
He's set to have another MRI on Friday. The Celtics host the Detroit Pistons on Friday and Charlotte Hornets on Sunday and Hayward's status for those games should become more clear following the second MRI.
This comes as huge blow to Boston, who is already short-handed with Marcus Smart (eye infection), Robert Williams (hip) and Vincent Poirier (finger) all out with various ailments.
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