Celtics take charge in Game 1

What did we learn in Game 1 of the NBA Finals?

The time outs are too damned long.

ABC must be making the gazillion dollars Donald Trump will end up owing all those people in New York, Georgia and parts unknown.

The Celtics look like they have turned an important corner.

They abandoned their maddening standard operating procedure. 

All season they worked with – or around – a beacon of imperfection: build a large lead in the first half, squander it in an amazing display of porous defense, indifferent rebounding and sloppy offense. 

Miraculously, they then discover the electrical cord they tripped over, plug it back into the socket and all is well.

Playing lesser teams it works tremendously well. Against good teams it works well.

Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks, a team that is their equal, it worked as if the Oklahoma City Thunder had stolen the Mavs’ uniforms and served as a substandard stand-in.

The Celtics quickly built a lead that reached 29 points in the second quarter. For the record, it was 58-29. Their defense was maniacal, their offense a jaw-dropping example of a hot shooting hand.

It made the inevitable second-half stumble painful to watch.

When that mountainous lead crumbled to eight points in the third quarter, thoughts of a relaxing rout had been fully drained from fidgety fans.

Was that a sneer on the face of Luka Doncic as he backpedaled up the floor as the spread hit 72-64?

The Celtics slapped that smirk from the consensus best player on the floor with their best run of the season.

It wasn’t an extended run, not half as productive as their first-half dominance. But a 14-2 stretch was more than enough for them to tuck a 1-0 series lead in their hip pockets.

Jayson Tatum is still in a shooting slump but continued to make up for by creating opportunities for others. Jaylen Brown continued to provide scoring power even as he assumed the lead defensive role in slowing down Doncic and company.

And the officials, while still only human, were guided by the best of intentions, They allowed physical play to rule at both ends of the floor. In the Finals, ticky-tack fouls should not be allowed to disrupt the proceedings.

Most importantly for the Celtics, Kristaps Porzingis’ performance morphed from hypothesis to reality. He was ready to play.

He wasn’t in uniform to make a cameo appearance. His shot didn’t creak with rust. 

Porzingis scored 20 points in about 20 minutes on the floor. His 11 points in the first quarter created the Celtics’ instant control of the game.

If he does that in Game 2, Porzingis could even be the man who slayed Celtics fans’ obsession with Kyrie Irving.