Lowe: The Dallas Mavericks have levers to pull in the NBA Finals -- and they need to pull all of them

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

If there is one number encapsulating why the Boston Celtics are up 2-0 over the Dallas Mavericks, hoping to cap a dominant season with their 18th title, it is this: Boston has attempted 60 catch-and-shoot 3s, the Mavericks just 28.

Boston's two-game average -- 30 -- would have led the league. The Mavs' -- 14 -- is six below the basement. They attempted a league-leading 11.3 corner 3s in the regular season. They are 2-of-8; Boston is 11-of-26.

The Mavs made it semi-interesting late in Game 2, and they'd be closer overall if not for their dismal 3-point shooting: 13-of-53 (24.5%). But Boston is only 26-of-81 (32%), and the attempt chasm matters more than the accuracy gap -- especially since catch-and-shoot 3s account for all of it. If that gap sustains, the Mavericks have no path to victory.

The door to a comeback cracks open if Kristaps Porzingis is out or limited after suffering a left leg injury in Game 2. Porzingis is day-to-day and expressed optimism Tuesday he would play in Game 3.

Boston's spacing shrinks without him. If Porzingis can't go, the Celtics might have to overextend Al Horford and expand the rotation to include one non-shooter: Luke Kornet, Xavier Tillman or Oshae Brissett as a small-ball center -- a look they flashed in the conference finals. The other alternative is playing super-small, with Tatum at center.

That catch-and-shoot number tells a story -- one of Boston's unwavering focus. In past playoff runs, these Celtics have been undone by periods of haze -- poor shot selection, and (less often) small breakdowns on defense that were beneath them.

Every team makes mistakes. Great opponents force mistakes, and despite the Mavericks' play so far -- and Kyrie Irving's addled 13-of-37 shooting -- they are a great opponent helmed by an all-time orchestrator. Boston has muffed a few switches. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have settled for some fading one-on-one jumpers over Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II on switches. Teammates have missed Boston's stars with favorable matchups -- missed chances to ping the ball right back to them.

But those mistakes have been rare -- rarer than ever for Boston. This has been a calculated performance befitting of a championship-level team that is now 78-20 and 14-2 in the playoffs. In its head-down, relentless, unpretty grit, it feels like the culmination of this era -- not the best they've played, but the way they have to play now.

Boston's stars are picking out matchups they like, roasting those guys, drawing help, and then hunting layups or spraying it out for open 3s. They just keep coming, even when the shots miss.

Dallas coach Jason Kidd tried to bait Tatum into hijacking the offense by labeling Brown Boston's "best player," but Tatum mostly went the other way -- driving over and over, and dishing a team-high 12 dimes in Game 2. Tatum isn't shooting well, but he's playing well.

As the 3s bricked, it must have been tempting for Boston's stars to play hero ball. That they didn't -- that they plowed forward -- shows a veteran understanding of the moment. It is a doggedness bred of past failures.