Saturday, July 13, 2024

Celtics hold off Dallas rally, take 3-0 NBA Finals lead

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The Boston Celtics have held off a furious Dallas rally to reach the brink of a record 18th championship with a 106-99 victory over the Mavericks in the NBA Finals.

The result gave the Celtics a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and left the Mavs‘ Australian duo of Dante Exum and Josh Green clinging to fast-receding hopes of finishing on the title-winning team.

Jayson Tatum scored 31 points and Jaylen Brown 30 – plus eight rebounds and eight assists – as the Celtics extended their record with a 10th consecutive playoff victory and moved to 7-0 on the road this post-season.

They can win the series, and break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for most NBA championships, with victory on Friday in Dallas.

Boston won without Kristaps Porzingis after the 2.18-metre Latvian was ruled out two hours before the game with a tendon injury in his lower left leg.

The status of Porzingis for the rest of the series appears in doubt, but it might not matter: none of the previous 156 teams to face a 3-0 deficit has rallied to win an NBA playoff series.

The Mavs almost pulled off a crazy comeback to avoid the big hole.

Boston led 91-70 at the end of a 20-5 run early in the fourth quarter before Dallas answered with a 22-2 spurt to get within a point with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic picked up his sixth foul with 4:12 remaining when a challenge was unsuccessful before Kyrie Irving, who scored 35 points, hit a jumper to get Dallas within one.

Tatum and Brown saved the Celtics from there, with some help from Derrick White, who scored 16.

Those three combined for the remaining 13 Boston points to get the Celtics within a victory of their first title since 2008 – and just the second since 1986.

Dallas’s PJ Washington, Irving and Tim Hardaway each missed a 3-pointer in the final minute as Irving’s personal losing streak against his former team reached 13 games.

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