Celtics blow out Mavericks in NBA Finals Game 1 as Kristaps Porziņģis shines in return

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BOSTON — For most of the NBA’s regular season, there was little doubt as to who was the best, deepest team. The same could be said for much of pro basketball’s first NBA Finals game in 2024.

Jaylen Brown led the Boston Celtics with 22 points, Kristaps Porziņģis made his triumphant return from a calf injury with 20 points, and the league’s No. 1 overall seed easily dispatched the Dallas Mavericks, 107-89, in Game 1 on Thursday night.

Game 2 is Sunday at TD Garden at 8 p.m.

Boston, which won 64 regular-season games, seven more than the next closest team and 14 better than the Mavericks, led Dallas by as many as 29 points in the first half and closed the third quarter on a 14-2 run to remove most doubt as to the outcome of this highly anticipated series.

Luka Dončić, the league’s regular-season scoring champ, paced the Mavericks with 30 points and 10 rebounds but managed just one assist — indicative of a tough night for the Dallas offense in which the Mavs failed to move the ball and were forced into too many tough shots.

Kyrie Irving, the former Celtic booed lustily all night, was just 6-of-19 shooting for 12 points, missing all five 3-point tries. P.J. Washington, added by the Mavs at the trade deadline, outscored Irving with 14 points.

Porziņģis, the former Maverick whom Dallas traded at the deadline in 2022, was playing his first game since April 29 because of a calf strain suffered in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs. He seemed to restore the Celtics from the good team they had been for much of the postseason — losing just twice but struggling at times against Miami, Cleveland and Indiana, all of them missing top players at key times in each series — to the prohibitive favorite.

For more on Game 1 of the NBA Finals, follow The Athletic’s live blog.

Entering the game with less than eight minutes left in the first quarter, donning a long compression sleeve on his right leg to protect the calf, Porziņģis registered eight points in his first five minutes. He turned away Josh Green’s dunk try at the rim — the first of his three impressive blocks, a sign of his improved health — and finished 8-of-13 shooting with two 3s.

Brown, the MVP of the Eastern Conference finals, dominated in all facets. He had three blocks of his own, including the turning away of a dunk try, added three steals and contributed six rebounds.

Jayson Tatum, a first-team All-NBA performer and the face of the Celtics, slightly ahead of Brown, contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds. Boston was in no need of any Tatum heroics, in large part due to the balance restored by Porziņģis’ return. Derrick White added 15 points for the Celtics, who bombed away as a team with 16 3s on 41 tries — continuing another trend from the regular season in which Boston was the league’s top 3-point shooting team.

Doris Burke, NBA analyst for ESPN, made American television history Thursday by becoming the first woman on the call for a men’s major sports championship game (Finals, World Series, Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, etc.).

This story will be updated.

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(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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