NBA: As Mavs seek improvement in Game 2, Celtics mindful of ‘wedge’ tactic

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BOSTON — Boston Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown aren’t letting Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd create a rift between them ahead of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.

Kidd referred to Brown as Boston’s best player while speaking to reporters on Saturday. Whether he truly meant it or was simply trying to play mind games with the Celtics remains a mystery, but the comment didn’t elicit a reaction from Tatum or Brown.

“We understand that people try to drive a wedge in between us,” Tatum said. “Guess it’s a smart thing to do — or try to do. But we’ve been in this position for many years of guys trying to divide us and say that one of us should be traded or one’s better than the other. So it’s not our first time at the rodeo.”

Boston veteran Al Horford thought Kidd’s intentions were pretty clear.

“J-Kidd, man. I see what he’s doing,” Horford said. “Jaylen Brown is an unbelievable player … and very special for us.”

It will take a lot more than psychological warfare to slow down the Celtics if they manage to replicate their Game 1 performance. Boston cruised to a 107-89 victory on Thursday night, leading by as many as 29.

Brown finished with a team-high 22 points for the Celtics, while Kristaps Porzingis returned from a 10-game absence due to a calf strain to pour in 20 in 21 minutes off the bench. Tatum finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Luka Doncic went for 30 points and 10 boards for Dallas, but continues to be bothered by injuries. He was downgraded to questionable on Sunday for Game 2 due to a thoracic contusion. He also is batting a right knee sprain and left ankle soreness.

Teammate Kyrie Irving was held to just 12 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Irving missed all five of his 3-point attempts and committed three turnovers while being taunted by Boston fans all night.

Irving is now 0-11 in his past 11 games against the Celtics, a losing streak that he is confident he can shed on Sunday.

“Just got to calm our nerves, poise our nerves a little bit and also just be aware of the environment that we’re in,” Irving said. “It’s going to be high intense from who we’re going against. It’s going to be very physical. Some things are going to be called, some things aren’t.

“So I think we got all that experience in Game 1, and we’re looking forward to the challenge in Game 2 to playing better, and being who we have been since post-All-Star break. … We’re the only two teams playing, so we’re proud of ourselves, but we’re not satisfied.”

Most of the Mavericks’ struggles stemmed from a lack of ball movement, as Dallas finished with only nine assists — the fewest by any team in a game this season. Kidd is hoping for a more fluid performance in Game 2.

“I thought we were too much one-on-one. We’ve got to move bodies. We’ve got to move the ball. Multiple guys got to touch the ball,” Kidd said. “We were just too stagnant, and that’s not the way we play. So, we’ve got to be better (Sunday).”

–Nick Galle, Field Level Media

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