Luka Doncic Fouls Out as Mavericks Drop Game 3 Against Celtics, Face 3-0 Series Hole in NBA Finals

The Dallas Mavericks now face a commanding 3-0 series deficit after losing to the Boston Celtics 106-99 despite leading by as many as 13 points in the first half.
Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) dribbles the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the fourth quarter during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) dribbles the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the fourth quarter during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks now face a commanding 3-0 series deficit after losing to the Boston Celtics 106-99 despite leading by as many as 13 points in the first half. After nearly rallying back from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit of their own to trail by three points late, Luka Doncic fouled out, and the Mavs could not complete the comeback.

With Kristaps Porzingis ruled out for Game 3 due to a left posterior tibialis dislocation, the Celtics continued to start Al Horford. Still, they had to rely on him more and turn to Xavier Tillman in the second unit. None of that mattered in the end.

Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after a call by the referees during the second quarter during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after a call by the referees during the second quarter during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic finished with 27 points, six rebounds, and six assists before fouling at in the fourth quarter after 38 minutes of action. Kyrie Irving led the Mavericks in scoring with 35 points, adding three rebounds, and two assists. P.J. Washington chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds. Dereck Lively II had a double-double off the bench with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The rest of the unit sorely struggled to contribute, particularly with perimeter shooting results.

Jayson Tatum scored 31 points with six rebounds and five assists, while Jaylen Brown added 30 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. The team's only other double figure scorer was Derrick White, who scored 16, however, Boston received more than enough in perimeter shooting and all-around offensive results to win after containing Dallas to under 100 points.

With the urgency of securing a victory to defend homecourt, the Mavericks used the energy of the American Airlines Center crowd to their advantage, getting off to a 9-2 lead within the first two minutes. Irving started Dallas off by attacking the rim for a finish. Doncic scored 5 points, with a step-back 3-pointer and a drive to the rim.

Doncic frequently hunted Tatum to attack downhill, scoring on multiple drives using his strength advantage deep in the paint. Lively later took advantage of drawing a cross-match by being on the receiving end of Doncic's playmaking, using a fake on the catch to set up an and-one finish against Tillman. Dallas was up 22-9 midway through the opening period.

After Doncic went to the bench, the Mavericks' bench group, led by Irving, sorely struggled to execute offensively. Dallas gave up a 10-3 run, reducing the lead to just 25-19 with 3:23 left in the first frame. Whether it was Jaden Hardy or P.J. Washington coming up empty, Irving appeared intent on allowing his teammates to attack. Doncic returned to the court out of the timeout at the 3:23 mark.

The Celtics' momentum continued, with Sam Hauser's 3-pointer countering a fly-by in the corner reduced the Mavericks' advantage to 25-23 until Doncic answered back with a one-legged jumper in short-range after a shot fake.

Doncic missed two step-back 3-pointers to end the opening period, resulting in transition scoring chances for Boston. The first was a made 3-pointer from Hauser followed by Tatum getting a transition finish. Dallas was only up 31-30.

The Mavericks often played through Irving to being the second quarter and the offense did not improve. Dallas did not score until the # mark of the period, with Boston overtaking the lead after making it 32-31. Doncic was in a scoring drought as well.

With Irving running a plug-and-play group without Doncic on the court midway through the second quarter, there was a tightly contested back-and-forth stretch. Irving used a triple-threat jumper in the corner to regain the Mavericks lead, but Tatum immediately fired back at the top of the key with a 3-pointer of his own. Irving later found Gafford on a dropoff pass for a dunk to put Dallas back up. Tatum responded by Euro-stepping his way to a finger roll. Boston led 40-38 at this point when Doncic returned.

Irving continued to heat up, using back-to-back 3-pointers to reach 20 points scored in the first half, with the first being a jab-step 3-pointer out of isolation followed by a catch-and-shoot jumper. Doncic later attacked downhill to get a floater deep on a drive. Dallas held a narrow advantage in the later stage of the first half.

Irving continued aggressively attacking the paint, but a missed finish created a chance for Horford to get an easy corner 3-pointer on the other end to tie it up at 48-48. A dunk from Lively pushed Dallas back ahead by two points.

Despite receiving 20 points from Irving and 17 from Doncic in the first half, the Mavericks only were ahead 51-50 at halftime. Outside of the superstar duo, Dallas shot 6 of 14 (42.9%) overall but missed all four 3-point attempts. Tatum scored 20 points to this point, but his supporting cast provided more offensive contribution than what Dallas received.

Boston came out of halftime outscoring Dallas 21-10 to lead by as many as 10 points. With continued defensive lapses coupled with the Celtics' shot-making execution hitting a major rhythm, the Mavericks were unable to answer with a struggling offense.

Doncic began attacking the rim for consecutive finishes to make it a six-point game. A rim out on a pull-up jumper from Irving stifled the momentum. Boston called a timeout with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter after securing a rebound to settle the game down. Boston used a 7-0 run to take a 13-point advantage.

Irving ended the Celtics' run with a side-step 3-pointer to cut it to 10 points before Doncic returned from a brief resting period on the sideline. With a double-figure deficit, Dallas went shot for shot from deep with the opposition when a realistic chance to compete in the finals dwindled. Brown stamped the Celtics' momentum with an emphatic dunk to extend the advantage to 15 points late in the third quarter.

Dallas was outscored 35-19 in the third quarter, which capped off a stretch since the 13-point lead the team held in the first quarter of being outscored by a 28-point margin.

A 6-0 run created by a pair of made 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter pushed Boston to a 21-point advantage. The shotmaking disparity continued to loom large as Dallas faced a daunting task of having to rally back from a large deficit against a much more capable perimeter shooting team.

The Mavericks did manage to achieve a 12-0 run, including a pair of made 3-pointers, to reduce the Celtics' lead to just nine points with roughly eight minutes remaining in regulation. Brown finally ended Boston's drought with a short-range jumper.

Washington hit another corner 3-pointer to make it 93-87 with over half the period remaining. Dallas secured possession after a missed shot from Boston, setting up a drive and finish that Doncic missed. Boston was called for a traveling violation, wiping away a possible 5-on-4 scoring chance with Doncic on the floor.

Irving was fouled on a 3-point attempt while taking a step-back 3-pointer and made each of his free throw attempts, reducing the Celtics' advantage to just 93-90 midway through the final period. Both teams traded missed shots until Dallas secured possession and called a timeout with 5:25 remaining in regulation.

While only down by three points, Doncic picked up a sixth foul after being called for a blocking foul. It was up to Irving to close the game out, and he initially answered with a short-range pull-up to make it a one-point game. Boston answered with a finish, then Washington committed an illegal screen.

White hit a 3-pointer to make it a six-point game after being left open. However, between Irving getting to the free throw line for a pair of makes followed by back-to-back dunks from Lively, Dallas was down by two points. Brown dropped the proverbial dagger with a short-range pull-up to make it a four-point game, followed by Washington having a corner 3-pointer rim out.

Horford was out of bounds trying to save the ball from going out, giving Dallas possession with a four-point deficit before Irving missed a tightly contested side-step jumper. White made a pair of free throws after Washington fouled him while crashiing the boards, making it a six-point game with only 22.0 seconds left. Dallas was unable to pull it off.

Stick with MavericksGameday for more coverage of the Dallas Mavericks throughout the NBA Finals.

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Grant Afseth

GRANT AFSETH

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.