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Wednesday's NBA Playoffs Takeaways: Celtics crush Heat to advance, Mavericks beat Clippers

Wednesday's NBA Playoffs Takeaways: Celtics crush Heat to advance, Mavericks beat Clippers

Written by Jared Weiss, Jay King, Will Guillory, Lou Murray, and Tim Cato

The Dallas Mavericks achieved a dominant win over the Los Angeles Clippers 123-93 to move one victory away from winning the first round.

Luka Doncic had his best game of the 2024 season so far, posting 35 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Five other Mavericks had double-digit point totals, including three reserves.

Should the Clippers fall in Game 6, Wednesday night will mark the franchise's final game at Crypto.com Arena.

Mavericks 123 Clippers 93

series: The Mavericks lead 3-2

Game 6: Friday in Dallas

Dončić's best match yet

In the morning shootout before the Mavericks won Game 5, Dončić said it was “probable” that he would not play due to a sprained knee. He struggled with that early in Game 3, but it fell short of his lofty standards for the Four. The shine wasn't quite as sustained or consistent as it usually is.

Dončić then had his best game of the series, scoring 35 points while adding 10 assists and seven rebounds. He was decisive and physical, entering the paint with the size and sure-footed confidence he's always had in his career. And when Dončić steps up, his teammates around him step up too.

Dallas' stifling defense was once again present in Wednesday's dominant win: The Clippers shot just 14 of 35 at the rim, and were completely unable to create shots near the rim. But Los Angeles was even colder from behind the arc, following up a stunning Game 4 showing with a dismal 6-of-30 performance before Tyronn Lue pulled his starters on Wednesday.

What turned it into an explosion in the second half was Doncic's offense and enough players joining in, particularly Maxi Kleber's 5-of-7 shooting from deep and 12 points from Derrick Jones Jr. It was a dominant showing for the team Dallas believes. It could be, and another showing like this would push Dallas to move on to the next round. — Tim Cato, Mavericks beat writer

The Clippers failed due to poor shooting

Shooting was a key part of the Clippers' ability to beat the Mavericks without the availability of Kawhi Leonard. They made 18 seconds in both Game 1 and Game 4. They made 18 seconds in Games 2 and 3.

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Taking photos allows you to do two things. It helps you score sharply, but it also keeps you locked down defensively. Missed shots can wreak havoc on a player's mentality, and the defense needed to stay in the game may not stick together the longer a bad offense persists.

The Clippers struggled to shoot from outside throughout the game, missing 7 of 10 shots from outside the target in the first quarter. But they still stuck with the Mavericks, trailing just 25-24.

But the defense began to crack in the second quarter, even as the Mavericks missed shots. The Clipper had several corner 3s as part of a 12-point second quarter. He made 4 of 6 3s in this period. Clipper's teammates missed all six attempts; Dončić and Kyrie Irving were 0-for-8 from 3 in the first half. But the Clippers missed all seven three-point attempts in the second quarter and were 3 of 15 from 3 in the first half, while missing just two attempts without drawing two points.

The Mavericks led 56-46 at halftime, but the Clippers continued to fail to find range in the third quarter as they missed 7 of 10 3s. Their time ran out in that period, as the Mavericks hit 4 of 9 3s. This trend continued until the end of the game, as the Clippers made just 9 of 35 3s, 25.7 percent, the same as their average in losses in the series.

The tough part for the Clippers is that the Mavericks' stars haven't been much better. Dončić and Irving made just 3 of 15 3s, the Clippers' first-half total. But Doncic and Irving's teammates made 12 of 25 3s (48 percent).

It's one thing for the Clippers to not shoot the ball well, but this was a huge blow because they stopped defending as the game went on and fouls piled up. — Lou Murray, Clippers beat writer

(Photo: Brian Babineaux/NBAE via Getty Images)

series: Celtics lead (4-1)

The Celtics had success in Game 1 without Kristaps Porzinis

The Celtics easily rolled past Miami to win the series in five games, so there was no clear indication of how the big man rotation would work out in Round 2 with Kristaps Porzinis likely wasting time.

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“I'm not sure,” Joe Mazzola said when asked for a timeline. “We'll just give him a week, see where he is, and see how he responds to treatment over the next week.”

Al Horford only had to play 23 minutes while Luke Kornet played 18, but Horford never had to come back in the fourth quarter. Will the Celtics play Kornet deep in the fourth quarter in the next drive so Horford can get in for a shorter period of time? Will they mix in some Xavier Tillman to ease Horford's minutes load?

Jarrett Allen missed Cleveland's Game 5 with a rib injury, so his absence will impact Boston's reliance on center field throughout the game if Cleveland advances. Orlando has size and strength across the board, so will Boston use Tillman instead of Kornet? The Celtics showed in this series against Miami that they can respond well to adversity. But their next opponent will have a clear advantage in the front court and will likely give the Celtics a more serious test. — Jared Weiss, Celtics beat writer

The Celtics showed much-needed urgency

In recent years, the Celtics have played almost exclusively long series. Not in the first round They showed urgency in Game 5 to take care of business, eliminate Miami, and give themselves two extra days of rest. Boston eliminated any suspense in the first half and built a 30-point lead, then never let Miami get closer in the second half. In the series-clinching game, Jayson Tatum needed to play just 32 minutes and Jaylen Brown needed to play just 26 minutes. The Celtics finished the game with a bench lineup of Svi Mikhailik, Oshay Brissett, Tillman, Jaden Springer, and Payton Pritchard.

Against an eight-seed who was missing three starters in Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier and Jaime Jaquez Jr., the Celtics did what they were supposed to do. After dropping Game 2 of the series, they turned up their intensity and shut down the Heat offense over the next three games. Miami made just three 3-pointers in Game 5 while failing to produce any kind of consistent scoring.

The Celtics will face tougher competition in the later rounds. At least for the start of the second round, they will be without Porzinis. But they were dominant without him throughout the regular season and looked great again without him in Game 5. By capitalizing on their first chance to close out the series, they made the qualifying path a little easier and kept extra miles off their feet. — Jay King, Celtics beat writer

Where does Miami go from here?

The Heat's season ended horribly tonight and they are now preparing for another summer full of questions about how they can bolster this roster and get back into championship contention.

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Once Butler went down with a knee injury in Miami's Play-In Championship loss to Philadelphia, the chances of putting any pressure on Boston in this series were slim to none. But this is two seasons in a row, and the Heat entered the postseason as the No. 8 seed.

There were already efforts to follow Damian Lillard last season after making a trip to the NBA Finals. And after going down in such ugly fashion this season, Miami is sure to be back in the market looking for another star who can provide more juice to an offense that has been below average in each of the past two seasons.

Then there are also questions about Butler as he heads into the final season of his current contract. Miami will have a chance to sign him to an extension before the start of next season. But if the two sides don't reach an agreement, will Miami consider a future without Butler? Will Butler try to fight his way out?

There will be some tough decisions for Miami to make. Does the front office commit more to this current version of the team or does it begin to explore ways to rebuild? The presence of Bam Adebayo makes the future look less shaky. But he needs more contributors around him who can be part of the future and help him find his way back to the top of the East. — Will Guillory, NBA writer

Thursday schedule:

  • Bucks over Pacers: 6:30 PM ET, TNT (Indiana leads 3-2)
  • Knicks at 76ers: 9 p.m. ET, TNT (New York leads 3-2)

Required reading

(Photo: Brian Babineaux/NBAE via Getty Images)