The Celtics won the Donczyk-Tatum matchups in Game 2

Luka Doncic faded in Game 2 as Jayson Tatum pressured the defense.

Luka Doncic led all scorers with 32 points in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, scoring more efficiently than he did three nights ago. Jayson Tatum, meanwhile, went 6-for-22 and is now 12-for-38 (32%) in the series.

But there was a lot of Doncic vs. Tatum on both ends of the floor in Game 2, and overall, the Boston Celtics had the advantage in those situations, one reason they took a 2-0 lead as the series went to Dallas for Game 1. 3 on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

A player’s numbers don’t matter much when the team works together to make good shots. That’s what’s happening on the Celtics’ end of the floor (300 pass possessions per 24 minutes) than they have in the first three rounds of the playoffs (293 for 100). At the other end, the Mavs completed 293 passes over 24 minutes through the first three rounds and went 260 for 24 in the finals.

Here are some more numbers and some pictures on how the Celtics won the Doncic-Tatum matchups in Game 2.


1. Tatum transitions, keeps Donczyk in check

Number to know: Tatum was the screener’s defender on 11 ball-screens for Donczyk in Game 1, compared to just four in Game 1.

With Tatum primarily guarding opposing bigs, Dallas used their forwards theatrically in Game 1, targeting screener defender Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis on 26 of 38 ball-screens set for Donczyk.

Of course, if the bigs aren’t setting screens, they’re somewhere else on the floor and Mavs’ spacing around Doncic’s attacks can be compromised. After Game 1 was one of the Mavs’ worst offensive performances of the season, they switched things up in Game 2, setting more screens with picks that put Tatum in more action.

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Ball screens for Luka Doncic, Finals

Screener Guardian Game 1 Game 2
Harford 15 5
Porzingis 11 11
Tatum 4 11
Others 8 8
Total 38 35

By observing the second spectrum

Tatum often changed those screens, and the Mavs scored four total points in 10 chances, including a ball screen for Donczyk set by the guy Tatum was guarding. All four of those points — a Dancic flatter on Tatum and a hard spin-back fadeaway — came in the first quarter, when Dancic also went 0-for-2 after hitting Tatum on a triple and drawing a foul.

The Donczyk-Tatum actions didn’t pay off after that, though, and on two occasions, the Mavs followed it up with another screen from a guy named Porzingis. The Celtics didn’t give up That switch, and Tatum was able to steal by following the screen with active hands:

Jayson Tatum steals from Luka Doncic

Three possessions later after another (damaging) turnover, the Mavs didn’t run any Doncic-Tatum action in the final 16 minutes of Game 2.


2. Doncic’s defense of attention

Number to know: In 88 games (regular season and playoffs) before the Finals, Tatum’s career high for drives was 17. He had 18 drives in Game 1 and 29 drives in Game 2.

The series has been mostly about that end of the floor, where the Mavs have been held to one point per possession, their second-worst two-game stretch this season. The only pair of games in which they scored less efficiently were the last two games of the regular season when Doncic and Kyrie Irving didn’t play.

But the Celtics won’t be two games from a championship if they don’t get some wins offensively. A lot of that success hit Donczyk.

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Late in the second quarter, there was a four-possession streak in which the Celtics scored 10 points, all of which came on Danczyk. It turned a tie score into a five-point lead and allowed them to go into halftime with an advantage.

First, Holiday (guarded by Doncic) fakes a screen to Tatum, burns down the left side of the floor and drives Doncic before he can recover:

Jury Holiday Drive

On the next possession, Holiday set a real screen for Tatum. Doncic converted as Tatum drove to the basket for an and-1.

Jayson Tatum passes Luka Doncic

Later, Holiday set a screen for Jaylen Brown. Doncic converted it and drew a foul, putting Brown on the line.

On the fourth outing, Donczyk had to replace Brown. Brown bounced past him and got the assist, and the Celtics eventually got Holiday a wide-open corner 3:

Jrue Holiday corner 3-pointer

Four possessions. Four actions aimed at Danzig. 10 points.

Danczyk stood up defensively on a few possessions, deflected a Brown pass (after hitting the back door), knocked the ball away from him on the next possession, and stood in front of Tatum long enough to allow Derrick Jones Jr. Vol. But it was too little, too late in Game 2, and he needs to be more consistent in that regard.


3. Tatum is creative

Number to know: Tatum assisted on 27 of his teammates’ points, tied for fourth in assists in 624 career games. He has assisted on at least 27 of his teammates’ points six times in his career, with five of those six games coming in the playoffs.

Tatum’s assists didn’t just come via those 29 drives. He was quick off the ball when he drew a second defender and had a pair of assists when he was double-teamed in the post:

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Jayson Tatum assists Jrue Holiday

While Tatum hasn’t shot well in the first two games, he’ll be a leader in the Finals in creating advantages in 1-on-1 situations, such as pulling two balls or driving by a defender. And he trusted his teammates, all of whom could make shots or make plays.

On the other end of the floor, in Game 2, the Celtics showed more help to Doncic. But players like Jones, Josh Green and Maxi Kleber couldn’t afford them.

If that doesn’t change in Dallas, this will be a very short streak.

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John Schuhman is a senior statistical analyst for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archive here and Follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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