Celtics Defeat Mavericks to Take 3-0 Lead in NBA Finals

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown Lead Boston to Victory, One Win Away from 18th Championship.

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Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown hugged after preventing Boston from suffering its worst collapse in an NBA Finals game since 1997.

What’s the reward? The Celtics’ players are on the verge of following a long list of big-name predecessors in raising a banner over the parquet floor at home.

Tatum scored 31 points, Brown had 30, and the Celtics fought off a furious Dallas charge to advance to a record 18th championship with a 106-99 win against the Mavericks on Wednesday night, giving them a 3-0 lead.

Brown finished with eight rebounds and eight assists to help the Celtics win their 10th straight playoff game and improve to 7-0 on the road in playoffs. They can win the series and break the tie with the Lakers for the most NBA titles with a victory in Dallas on Friday.

And Boston can forget about almost squandering a 21-point lead with 11 minutes remaining.

“Not really trying to look too much into it,” Tatum remarked. “The game of basketball is about running. It’s never going to be how you anticipated. If you want to be a champion, you must be resilient in such circumstances, and we demonstrated that today.”

Boston also advanced to 10-1 in the playoffs without Kristaps Porzingis, who was ruled out before the game due to a rare tendon injury to his lower left leg suffered in Game 2.

Porzingis’ status for the remainder of the series is unclear, but it may not matter. None of the previous 156 teams who faced a 3-0 disadvantage recovered to win an NBA playoff series.

The Mavs almost pulled off a spectacular comeback to escape the large deficit, 13 years after Dallas had the greatest fourth-quarter rally in the NBA Finals’ play-by-play history (since 1997), when a 15-point comeback in Game 2 launched the franchise’s sole championship against Miami.

Boston led 91-70 at the conclusion of a 20-5 run early in the fourth quarter, but Dallas responded with a 22-2 run to get within a point with 3 1/2 minutes left.

The problem was that Luka Doncic picked up his sixth foul with 4:12 left when a challenge failed before Kyrie Irving, who scored 35 points, nailed a jumper to get Dallas within one.

Tatum and Brown came through for the Celtics, with Derrick White adding 16 points. Those three combined for the last 13 Boston points, bringing the Celtics within one win of their first championship since 2008 and just the second since 1986.

The Celtics have only led 3-0 in the NBA Finals once, in 1959, when they swept the Lakers.

The first goal for Dallas is to avoid being swept in a seven-game series for just the second time in team history.

“We just got to make history,” Mavs rookie center Dereck Lively II said. “We got to go out there and we just got to play like our lives are on the line.”

In a game that seemed to be over early in the fourth quarter, the score remained 93-90 for more than three minutes. That featured Doncic being penalized for a blocking foul on a driving Brown.

The Mavericks had nothing to lose by taking on the challenge, which included attempting to rescue their hero from disqualification.

Without Doncic, P.J. Washington Jr., Irving, and Tim Hardaway Jr. all missed three-pointers in the last minute, extending Irving’s personal losing run against his previous club to 13 games.

“We had a good chance,” Doncic said. “We were near. I didn’t understand it. “I wish I were out there.”

An excited Dallas audience was ready for the first finals game in 13 years, with Super Bowl-winning quarterback and Mavs fan Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs repeatedly standing up from his spot near midcourt.

Following two defeats in Boston, the Mavericks utilized the needed lift to take their largest lead of the series, 22-9. Doncic and Irving drove for baskets and both nailed threes.

The Celtics responded with a 21-9 first-quarter score. Sam Hauser made two of his first-half three-pointers on three tries to cap off a run that began with four points from Brown and a three from Tatum.

The defense controlled the second quarter, with Boston leading 5-2 almost six minutes in until Irving and Tatum swapped three-pointers to spark a scoring surge.

“They came out swinging,” Tatum said. “It was to be expected.” They were at home, and the audience was behind them. “We expected their first punch.”

After withstanding it, it looked the Celtics would glide after outscoring the Mavs 35-19 in the third quarter, until the Mavs’ late surge. Finally, Tatum and Brown respond.

“We’ve been in those moments a lot,” Brown remarked. “We’ve been in such circumstances before, and we lost. It was amazing to conquer it alongside my brother, Jayson, and our team. That was something spectacular.

After it was finished, pockets of Celtics supporters roared with excitement in a nearly empty stadium, seeming to kick off the inevitable celebration.

To everyone but the Celtics.

“You’ve got to understand that we are just as vulnerable, if not more vulnerable, than they are,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “When you realize you’re vulnerable and your back is against the wall, you have to fight. So that’s the attitude we need to have.”

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