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

Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) dunks against Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) and guard Josh Green (8) during the third quarter in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) dunks against Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) and guard Josh Green (8) during the third quarter in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
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The third quarter of Game 3 of the NBA Finals was one of the best 12-minute stretches the Celtics have played this postseason.

They repeatedly created quality shots and shut down the Mavericks' offense at the other end of the floor. Boston used those stops to fuel an up-tempo attack, pairing it with beautiful ball movement.

It was the ideal execution of Joe Mazzulla's message that the game is connected and that it's paramount his team puts the proper weight on respecting that what happens at one end directly impacts what unfolds at the other.

The visitors outscored Dallas 35-19 in the third frame, assisted on 8/13 field goals, and limited the hosts toΒ 38.1%Β shooting.

That gave the Celtics an 85-70 advantage entering the fourth quarter. While one could sense the Mavericks losing confidence in that stretch, that cushion proved essential to Boston's 106-99 win.

Slowing the tempo backfired on the visitors in the last 12 minutes as their offense went cold, and a 10-0 run by Dallas brought the crowd at American Airlines Center to live.

The Mavericks cut a 21-point deficit to three in the final frame but, in 26 seconds, saw Luka Doncic pick up his fifth and sixth fouls, ending his night early.

Jaylen Brown, who attacked the five-time All-NBA selection, fouling him out of Wednesday's matchup, strengthened his case for Finals MVP, registering nine of his 30 points in the final frame, including a pair of crunch-time baskets, helping apply the finishing touches.

The three-time All-Star also dished out eight assists, the most in the contest, and grabbed eight rebounds, a team-best.

Jayson Tatum delivered a team-high 31 points, grabbed six rebounds, and distributed five assists in the victory.

Boston also got 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists from Derrick White, plus a crucial contribution off the bench from Xavier Tillman Sr., admirably filling the void left in Kristaps Porzingis' absence.

Now for a more detailed deep dive into what stood out as the Celtics seized a commanding 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals and moved within one win of Banner 18.

1. Fighting to protect home court and avoid a 0-3 hole that would likely prove insurmountable, the Mavericks came out with the energy and desperation Game 3 called for, racing out to a 13-5 lead.

They produced 20 points in the paint, Luka Doncic generated 13 points, and Kyrie Irving chipped in nine, helping grow the advantage as large as 13.

2. However, the Celtics were getting quality looks; the problem was the need for more resistance defensively and not matching Dallas' energy.

But the visitors weathered the early storm at a raucous American Airlines Center, closing the first frame on a 10-3 run that included a pair of triples from Jayson Tatum, who registered eight of those points and tied Doncic for the most in the period. That burst also coincided with the latter heading to the bench.

So, while Boston trailed after the opening 12 minutes for the first time on the road this postseason, as the quarter closed, momentum was shifting to the visitors' side as they narrowed the gap to 31-30.

3. Kyrie Irving, looking far more comfortable away from TD Garden, erupted in the second frame, burying all three shots he hoisted from beyond the arc, making 4/7 field goal attempts -- though he surprisingly missed a layup, which led to an Al Horford three at the other end.

But the eight-time All-Star manufactured 11 points in the 12 minutes before halftime, making him the lone player on either side to reach double figures in the second quarter.

Irving entered halftime with 20 points, matching Tatum for the most through two periods.

4. Even with him heating up, the second frame was a low-scoring affair, with both teams limiting the other side to 20.

That included productive minutes from Boston's three-guard lineup, deploying Payton Pritchard alongside Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, with Tatum at the four and Xavier Tillman Sr. at center.

While allowing 30 points in the paint is more than the Celtics would like, they continued to do an excellent job protecting the perimeter, as they have all series, limiting the hosts to 5/15 (33.3%) shooting from beyond the arc.

That was crucial with the visitors struggling from long range for the second straight game. Boston entered intermission 9/27 (33.3%) from behind the arc, but those four extra makes helped keep the C's within one, entering the break trailing 51-50.

5. The Celtics quickly found their rhythm in the second half, including staging a 10-2 run. Their offense came from a combination of a three-point barrage and producing a 12-8 advantage in the paint.

In a play during that stretch that served as one of their best possessions of Game 3, Tatum worked his way into the post, then capitalized on the attention he drew, spraying the ball out to Derrick White, sparking two quick swing passes, leading to an open corner three for Jaylen Brown.

Boston outscored Dallas 21-10 in the first 6:09 of the third quarter, taking a double-digit lead, 71-61, nearly halfway through the frame.

6. The visitors remained red hot as the period progressed, with Tillman admirably filling minutes in Kristaps Porzingis' absence, knocking down a corner three and Brown thunderously finishing above the rim for two of his 15 points in the frame.

There was also some good fortune sprinkled in when Derrick White banked in a three from above the break.

The Celtics outscored the Mavericks 35-19 in a dominant 12-minute stretch where one could feel the hosts losing confidence. As they wilted, Boston extended its advantage to 85-70 entering the final frame.

7. What should not get lost in the shuffle is that the visitors did an outstanding job at both ends of the floor, limiting Dallas to 38.1% shooting. The Mavericks only attempted two threes, made one, only grabbed two offensive rebounds, and attempted a pair of free throws.

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

8. But after a 6-0 start to the fourth quarter for the Celtics, the hosts countered with a 10-0 run, bringing the crowd at the American Airlines Center to life.

That stretch saw the visitors slow the tempo to their detriment, going cold offensively, and the Mavericks getting key contributions off the bench, with Dereck Lively II tipping in a Doncic miss and Josh Green knocking down a three, pulling Dallas within 11, 91-80, with 8:24 remaining.

9. In a backbreaking 26-second sequence, Luka Doncic picked up his fifth foul, then had to leave the game after Jaylen Brown attacked downhill in transition, ramming into the five-time All-NBA selection before he could get set.

Jason Kidd challenged the call in desperation, but it was to no avail. Doncic departed with the Celtics leading 93-90 with 4:12 left.

10. After that, Brown cleaned up a Tatum miss at the rim, P.J. Washington got whistled for an illegal screen, shoulder-checking Jrue Holiday, and the former UCLA Bruin drove baseline, finding Derrick White for a three from the right slot. That shot extended Boston's edge to 98-92 with 2:48 to go.

That, an above-the-rim finish by Tatum, a jumper from 20 feet by Brown, and capitalizing at the free-throw line proved the finishing touches as the Celtics claimed a 106-99 victory, seizing a 3-0 lead that has them one win away from Banner 18.

11. Game 4 of the NBA Finals will tip off at 8:30 EST on Friday night at American Airlines Center.

Further Reading

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.