Celtics Detail Keys to Perhaps Their Best Quarter This Postseason: 'Excellent Basketball'

Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) goes up for a basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) and guard Kyrie Irving (right) during the first half during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Julio Cortez/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) goes up for a basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) and guard Kyrie Irving (right) during the first half during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Julio Cortez/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports / Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
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The Celtics entered the third quarter of Game 3 of the NBA Finals trailing 51-50. What unfolded next was arguably Boston's best 12-minute stretch this postseason.

Joe Mazzulla has emphasized all season that the game is connected and what happens at one end directly impacts what unfolds at the other.

Making the correct first read repeatedly allowed the visitors to create and capitalize on high-quality opportunities on each possession.

The Celtics, a team that in recent years was often sluggish after halftime, a bad habit they've shed this season, scored the first seven times they had the ball after intermission.

"Yeah, I've got to watch the film, but that was excellent basketball we played to start the third, especially on the offensive end," said Jayson Tatum, who registered seven points, two blocks, and was a period-best plus-18 in the third frame.

"I don't know how many possessions in a row that we got a great shot. We made most of them. We might have missed a few. But the way that we started the third quarter was incredible. Everybody else on that court, the mindset we came out to start the third in our execution, we did a hell of a job in the start of the third quarter."

That set the tone for Boston staging a 21-10 run and outscoring the hosts 35-19 in the 12 minutes after the break.

"We were trying to play fast, create advantages, and create indecision," conveyed Mazzulla after the Celtics' 106-99 victory, moving one win away from Banner 18.

"But we didn't create any indecision. When you miss the first read, it's not a lack of execution from the guys. It's not a lack of -- like trying to execute. It's if you miss the first read and you miss the first window, it's really hard to get that window back against a team.

"And so, that's what we were able to do in the third quarter. We found the first read, bang, right there, and we got it like six, seven, eight times in a row. If you miss that first one, it's a nightmare to get a second and third one, and that's when you end up taking a couple (of) shots you don't want to take."

Jaylen Brown did an outstanding job of ensuring that didn't happen. The three-time All-Star generated 15 of his 30 points in the 12 minutes after intermission, attacking downhill, playing with poise, knocking down multiple step-back and pull-up jump shots, and throwing down a thunderous one-handed jam to close a superlative stretch of basketball.

Brown, who finished with a game-high eight assists, also dished out three helpers, the most in the quarter.

At the other end of the floor, the visitors held Dallas toΒ 38.1%Β shooting. The hosts only attempted two threes, made one, manufactured two offensive rebounds, and attempted a pair of free throws.

Consistently getting stops and holding Dallas to one shot per possession fueled an up-tempo attack and beautiful ball movement, with Boston assisting on 8/13 makes, as the Mavericks' confidence diminished.

Impressively, the hosts regrouped, capitalizing on the Celtics slowing the pace in the final frame, going on a 10-run, igniting the crowd at American Airlines Center.

They pulled within three thanks to three free throws from Kyrie Irving at the 6:11 mark that narrowed the gap to 93-90.

But Luka Doncic picked up his fifth and sixth fouls in 26 seconds, including Brown attacking in transition, drawing the five-time All-NBA selection's sixth personal, abruptly ending his night with Dallas still trailing 93-90 with 4:12 left.

After that, Brown cleaned up a Tatum miss at the rim and knocked down a pull-up jump shot from 20 feet, helping the Celtics apply the finishing touches on Wednesday's win.

"I think (that) definitely it's been some growth, but I think this team has trusted me, especially in this playoffs and those moments to just be who I am," said Brown about his maturation and operating with poise in the most crucial moments.

"I felt like I've been able to deliver just by being patient and being poised. Those opportunities have presented themselves, and I've been able to take advantage of them. But I give all my credit to my teammates for the trust they had in me to have the ball in my hands and to be able to make those plays."

That evolution has Brown entering Game 4 as the favorite for NBA Finals MVP. While winning that honor this round and in the previous one would surely mean a lot to the Marietta, Georgia native, his focus is on prevailing on Friday to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the first time in his career.

Further Reading

Celtics Weather Late Storm to Move Within One Win of Banner 18

Sports Doctor Details Challenges, Risks of Kristaps Porzingis Playing in NBA Finals

Celtics React to Injury That May Sideline Kristaps Porzingis for NBA Finals

Jrue Holiday's 'Championship DNA' Rubbing Off on Celtics

Stifling Defense Moves Celtics Halfway to Banner 18

Jayson Tatum's Joy Outweighing Pressure of NBA Finals Return

Inside the Moment that Propelled Celtics to NBA Finals Game 1 Win

Celtics Set the Tone for the NBA Finals with Game 1 Haymaker

Kyrie Irving Shares Regret and What He Takes from Playing in Boston

Joe Mazzulla Eviscerates Contrived Narrative about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

Al Horford Returns to NBA Finals Aiming to Add to a Legacy Already Cemented

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.