Home » Aussie stuns with ‘nasty’ play… but daunting reality has Mavericks’ NBA Finals dream on lifeline

Aussie stuns with ‘nasty’ play… but daunting reality has Mavericks’ NBA Finals dream on lifeline

Aussie stuns with ‘nasty’ play… but daunting reality has Mavericks’ NBA Finals dream on lifeline

The Boston Celtics have held off a fast-finishing Dallas Mavericks 106-99 to claim Game 3 of the NBA Finals and take a 3-0 series lead.

The Celtics led 91-70 early in the fourth quarter before the Mavericks stormed home, getting it as close as 93-92 but were dealt a crushing setback when Luka Doncic fouled out with four minutes left in the game.

Boston was able to withstand the Dallas avalanche from that point and now is one game away from sealing the series despite being without Kristaps Porzingis for Game 3.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 61 points while Derrick White had 16 points and Jrue Holiday continued to build his case for potential Finals MVP honours.

Dallas, meanwhile, got 62 points from its superstar duo but didn’t get much more help — at least early in the game — as Kyrie Irving and Doncic did the heavy lifting.

History is now against the Mavericks and Australian duo Josh Green and Dante Exum, with no team coming back from a 3-0 series deficit in NBA playoffs history.

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Dallas needed to make a fast start after dropping the first two games of the series and did just that, jumping out to an early 9-2 lead, prompting Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla into a quick timeout.

Doncic, who received a pain-killing injection before Game 2 as he deals with a thoracic contusion, was heavily involved once more in Game 3 as he scored or assisted on seven of Dallas’ first nine points.

The timeout did little to stop the Mavericks from getting whatever they wanted in the paint, outscoring the Celtics 18-4 on the way to a 22-9 lead.

Boston was able to cut the deficit to 25-23 in the closing stages of the quarter and Tatum put an exclamation mark on the Celtics comeback with an emphatic dunk on the final play of the period.

But Exum rivalled Tatum for the dunk of the quarter after attacking the basket aggressively off a Doncic screen, with J.J. Redick declaring “that is just nasty” in commentary.

The Mavericks opened the second quarter missing eight of their first nine shots as the Celtics took their first lead of the game, going ahead 35-33.

That was until Irving confidently drained a 3-pointer, which Tatum immediately responded to with a dribble, pull-up triple of his own.

That, it turned out, was just the start of both teams trading buckets as Irving started to catch fire while Tatum, having struggled with his shooting in Game 2, was perfectly picking his moments to drive towards the basket and pull up from deep.

It wasn’t just Tatum, with Sam Hauser perfect on his first three 3-point attempts of the game off the bench while Al Horford was 2-for-4 from downtown early.

Tatum finished the first half on 20 points while it was all Doncic and Irving for the Mavericks, combining for 37 of their 51 points.

The Celtics were perfect to open the third quarter, making their first six shots to take a 64-59 lead as Boston continued to find ways to combat the Dallas defence with its elite ball movement.

Just when the Mavericks looked to have an answer, the Celtics were consistently able to make the extra pass while Holiday backed up his standout Game 3 with more impressive plays on both ends.

Jrue Holiday has been enormous on both ends. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP
Jrue Holiday has been enormous on both ends. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

Whether it was moving off the ball, being a menace on defence or sinking shots, like he did early in the third quarter with a layup and 3-pointer, the championship-winning guard was everywhere.

And as much as it was expected that one of Tatum or Brown would be crowned MVP if Boston won the NBA Finals, Holiday is making a strong case for the honour with his consistency across the series.

Elsewhere, after scoring just six points in the first half, Brown put up 15 in the third quarter alone while even Xavier Tillman made his first 3-point attempt of the playoffs, extending Boston’s lead.

Brown capped off Boston’s dominant third quarter with an emphatic dunk that put the Celtics ahead 85-70 after outscoring the Mavericks 35-19 in the period.

The Celtics quickly pushed that lead out to 91-70 after opening the fourth with a pair of 3-pointers which seemingly put the Mavericks away, until Dallas went on a quick 10-0 run.

A Green 3-pointer reduced the Boston lead to 91-80 with over eight minutes still left on the clock.

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The Mavericks were able to get it as close as 93-92 off the back of a 22-2 run but were dealt a devastating blow when Doncic fouled out with just over four minutes left in the game.

While Doncic had been targeted defensively throughout the series, obviously Dallas was far better off with its main scoring threat on the court.

Without him, it meant all the pressure was on Irving to complete the unlikely Mavericks comeback and he scored Dallas’ next five points of the quarter.

But a few clutch shots, including a White 3-pointer off a tough Holiday pass, saw the Celtics home and just one game away from the championship.

Earlier, Porzingis was ruled out for Boston after he suffered a “rare” injury to his left leg in Game 2 that left him “day-to-day” heading into Game 3.

Boston said Wednesday Porzingis had been diagnosed with a “torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon in his left leg” in Game 2.

Although Porzingis was seen walking normally at practice on Wednesday, the Celtics said no risks would be taken and eventually ruled him out on Thursday.

“The medical team and the staff just decided that it wasn’t what was best for him (to play) today,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski later reported on ‘NBA Countdown’ that there is “real doubt” over Porzingis’ availability for the rest of the series too.

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