DALLAS — The Boston Celtics were one good night away from celebrating their first championship in over 15 years. Instead, they put on their worst performance of the season in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, losing 122-84 to the Dallas Mavericks.

When it came to things going wrong, it was a perfect storm for the C's. Shots weren't falling, they were getting into foul trouble early on, and they couldn't build any momentum.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks lit it up, shooting over 50% from the field while holding the Celtics to just 84 points, the Green Team's lowest output of the entire 2023-24 season. The series will now head back to Boston for Game 5 on Monday with the Celtics up 3-1.

But, before that significant showdown, let's take a look at how the Celtics were thoroughly embarrassed in Game 4 with three takeaways from their brutal defeat.

Second-chance points doomed the Celtics

There were so many aspects of Game 4 that were disastrous for the Celtics. However, allowing Dallas to have loads of second-chance points was arguably the biggest issue.

Boston had only four offensive rebounds to Dallas' 13. That resulted in the Mavericks having a whopping 16 second-chance points. Conversely, the Celtics notched just two.

Whenever it looked like Boston earned a much-needed stop, the Mavericks would somehow end up with the ball. A few of those instances were bad bounces, yet the majority seemed to be from Dallas crashing the boards harder to keep possessions alive.

Thanks to the Mavs' dominance on the glass, they put up 11 more shots than the C's. All those extra opportunities added up and prevented Boston from stringing together a lengthy run.

“They came out super aggressive. They played extremely fast and took more shots than we did,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum told the media in his postgame remarks. “You know, they were really concentrating on attacking the offensive glass. They got way more rebounds than we did. So, you know, they played harder tonight.”

Fellow 2024 All-Star Jaylen Brown also recognized how Dallas' rebounding advantage overwhelmed the Green Team.

“I thought they played extremely well. Those guys, they crashed, they rebounded and they played with force,” he said. “We've got to be better and we've got to have some of our guys step up, and that's what it takes.”

The Celtics were dominated on the margins

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) and forward Jayson Tatum (0) react in the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks during game one of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla always talks about winning the margins, or the underrated battles within a game.

On Friday evening, the Celtics were destroyed on the margins. Rebounding aside, the Mavs had more free throws, more 3-pointers, more points in the paint, and more fast break points.

Boston can afford to lose a few of these exchanges, yet not all of them.

“I learned that Dallas is a great team and you're going to have to earn it,” Mazzulla revealed in his postgame press conference. “There's a lot of stuff that we can control. We'll go back on the film and we'll watch that, and we'll really try to be disciplined and control it.”

Failing to prevail in the turnover battle was particularly troubling for Boston. It had 14 turnovers to Dallas' nine and those self-inflicted mistakes, just like the second-chance points, killed its momentum. If the C's want to respond in Game 5, they'll have to focus on the details and do the little things it takes to win on the biggest stage.

“We're not making any excuses,” Tatum stated. “We need to be better, and we will. We will be better.”

Boston needs to place the utmost importance on Game 5

A 3-1 lead generally provides a feeling of comfort for most teams. Yet, the Celtics can't afford to relax, especially after putting together an awful showing in Game 4.

The Mavericks could ride the high of winning by a whopping 38 points into Game 5. And if they're able to take that contest, they could potentially return to Dallas for Game 6 with all the series momentum in their favor.

“It is hard to win on the road,” veteran center Al Horford admitted. “And even though we've had a lot of success this postseason on the road, you know, they had the momentum. They kept it going, and that was a big difference. Their crowd really rallied behind them and I feel like that helped them throughout.”

Boston has experienced a situation like this recently, just on the other side. During the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics went down 3-0 before rattling off three straight wins to even the semifinal series with the Miami Heat. The Celtics eventually came up short of completing the historic comeback, but it should teach them that truly no lead is safe in today's NBA.

“A year ago this time, we were down 0-3 and we were essentially fighting for our lives,” Tatum recalled. “So very short answer, yeah, we understand what it's like from their point of view.”

Since the Mavs were up so much in Game 4, some of their bench guys got a chance to play and experience their first beneficial minutes of the series. For example, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. connected on zero 3-pointers prior to Friday night. He then proceeded to knock down a game-high five triples en route to a 15-point performance in what was, by far, his best outing of the Finals and the Western Conference Finals.

“I think role players came in and they felt good,” guard Jrue Holiday mentioned to the media. “Obviously they are at home. But things that we have to control, we'll do our best to do that and come back at home and do the best we can to win.”

Dallas' victory in Game 4 snapped the Celtics' 10-game winning streak, which was long enough to set a franchise record. After getting shown up in Texas, it's now time for the once red-hot C's to respond. Not doing so would only fuel the fire for a Mavericks' comeback.