Luka Dončić fouls out as Celtics beat Mavericks to move within one win of NBA title

Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
June 13, 2024 at 13:49
Jayson Tatum and Luka Dončić react after a call during Game 3 of the NBA finals. Photograph: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports
Jayson Tatum and Luka Dončić react after a call during Game 3 of the NBA finals. Photograph: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports

Jayson Tatum scored 31, Jaylen Brown had 30 and the Boston Celtics held off a furious Dallas rally to reach the brink of a record 18th championship with a 106-99 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night for a 3-0 lead in the NBA finals.

Brown finished with eight rebounds and eight assists as the Celtics extended a franchise record with their 10th consecutive playoff victory. They also moved to 7-0 on the road this postseason. They can win the series and break a tie with the Lakers for the most NBA championships with a victory on Friday in Dallas.

Tatum, though, said the Celtics are taking nothing for granted. “We’ve got to keep fighting, we can’t relax … ‘However long it takes’, that’s our motto,” he said after the game.

The Mavs almost pulled off a crazy comeback to avoid defeat – 13 years after the only other rally to match it in the NBA finals sparked Dallas’ run to their only title, against Miami.

Boston led 91-70 at the end of a 20-5 run early in the fourth quarter on Wednesday before Dallas answered with a 22-2 spurt to get within a point. But Luka Dončić picked up his sixth foul with 4:12 remaining 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.

“Credit to them, they never gave up,” said White. “Obviously our execution, especially in that stretch, needs to be a lot better ... We’ve got to be better and learn from it.”



In a game that had seemed over early in the fourth, the score was stuck on 93-90 for more than three minutes. That included when Dončić was called for a blocking foul on a driving Brown.

Dončić was unhappy with the officiating throughout the night. The final foul that ruled him out of the game appeared to be correct by the letter of the law, although it may not have been given if Brown hadn’t fallen to the court.

“We couldn’t play physical,” said Dončić when asked about the officiating after the game. “I don’t want to say nothing. [But] six fouls in the NBA finals? Come on man.”

Without Dončić, Dallas managed to get within two before Brown hit a pullup jumper with a minute to go. PJ Washington, Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr each missed a three-pointer in the final minute as Irving’s personal losing streak against his former team reached 13 games.

Boston also improved to 10-1 in these playoffs without Kristaps Porzingis after the Latvian was ruled out hours before the game because of a leg injury sustained in Game 2. The status of Porzingis for the rest of the series appears in doubt, but it may not matter. None of the previous 156 teams to face a 3-0 deficit have rallied to win an NBA playoff series.

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