Celtics avoid collapse, defeat Mavericks to take 3-0 lead in NBA Finals: Game 3 highlights (2024)

DALLAS – Star guards Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic had their combined best offensive game of the NBA Finals.

It still wasn’t enough for the Dallas Mavericks to beat the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics took control of the Finals Wednesday with a 106-99 victory for a 3-0 series lead. They are one victory from their first championship since 2008 and their 18th overall, which would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for most titles in NBA history.

Game 4 is Friday in Dallas (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

It was a hectic fourth quarter. Dallas trailed 91-70 with 11:03 left in the game but a 22-2 Dallas run trimmed Boston’s lead to 93-92.

Doncic fouled out with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter, trying to stop Jaylen Brown from driving to the basket. Dallas coach Jason Kidd challenged the call and lost. Doncic finished with 27 points, six assists and six rebounds. He was 11-for-27 from the field and 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, and Irving scored a team-high 35 points.

Boston held on for the victory despite scoring 21 points in the fourth.

At some point in the series, Boston needed a big-scoring game from All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum. He produced his best scoring performance of the Finals with 31 points on 11-for-26 shooting. Brown had 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Trailing 51-50 at halftime, Boston outscored Dallas 35-19 in the third quarter for an 85-70 lead headed into the fourth. Brown had 15 points in the third, including a one-handed dunk at the end of the quarter. The assault continued in the fourth. Derrick White’s 3-pointer put the Celtics ahead 91-70.

Boston is now 15-2 in the playoffs, including 7-0 on the road. The Celtics have won 10 consecutive games and haven’t loss since Game 2 of the second round against Cleveland on May 9.

The Celtics were without center Kristaps Porzingis, who sustained a torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon in Game 2. The Celtics missed him but still won.

The 3-pointer continued to play an important role. Boston shot 37% on 3s and outscored Dallas 51-27 from that range.

The Mavs face what historically has been an impossible task: coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Teams that have fallen behind 3-0 in the NBA playoffs are 0-156 and just four teams have forced a Game 7. The only time one of those teams pushed the series to seven games in the Finals was in 1951. This is the 15th time a team has taken a 3-0 lead in the Finals.

Dallas didn’t have much offensive help for Irving and Doncic. After three quarters, no other Mavs player had more than six points. P.J. Washington finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. — Jeff Zillgitt

USA TODAY Sports' updates, highlights and analysis of Game 3 of the NBA Finals:

Celtics vs. Mavericks Game 3 highlights

Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum quieting the doubters

DALLAS –Jaylen BrownandJayson Tatumembraced at halfcourt.

TheBoston Celticshad just extinguished a massive Dallas comeback anddefeated the Mavericks 106-99 Wednesdayfor a 3-0 series lead inthe NBA Finals.

Brown and Tatum, the Celtics' two stars, were not celebrating.

However, they understood the significance of the moment. Not only are the Celtics one victory from their first championship since 2008, Brown and Tatum – the Celtics’ foundational players who were drafted in 2016 and 2017, respectively – are on the verge of winning their first championship and quieting doubters who didn’t believe their partnership could produce a title.

Read Jeff Zillgitt's full piece here.

Luka Doncic: 'Six fouls in the NBA Finals … come on, man'

Luka Doncic wasn’t pleased with the officiating in Game 3 of the NBA Finals after he fouled out in the fourth quarter with the Mavericks in the midst of a 20-8 run.

“I mean, I don’t know. We couldn’t play physical so, I don’t know," Doncic said.

Doncic didn’t go into detail to avoid getting fined, but he did say, “Six fouls in the NBA Finals. ... Come on, man. Better than that.”

Doncic fouled out with 4:12 remaining in the fourth quarter with Dallas trailing 93-90. The Celtics went on to outscore the Mavericks 13-9 after Doncic hit the bench to win 106-99. It marked the first time he’s fouled out of a playoff game in his career.

He finished with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists. — Cydney Henderson

ESPN's Brian Windhorst has strong words for Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic fouls out

Mavs star guard Luka Doncic fouled out with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter, trying to stop Jaylen Brown from driving to the basket. Dallas coach Jason Kidd challenged the call and lost. Boston was up 93-90.

This marks the first time Doncic has fouled out in his playoff career.

Doncic finished with 27 points, six assists and six rebounds. He was 11-for-27 from the field and 1-for-7 on 3-pointers. — Jeff Zillgitt and Cydney Henderson

Mavericks within three

Don’t count the Mavericks out yet. Dallas opened the fourth quarter trailing the Celtics by 15 points and fell even further behind, but the Mavericks got right back into the game thanks to a 20-2 run to come within three points of the Celtics, 93-90.

So far, the Mavericks are outscoring the Celtics 20-8 in the fourth quarter.— Cydney Henderson

Mavericks go on 12-0 run

This one isn't over yet.

The Celtics seemed to be cruising to victory after Derrick White hit a 3-pointer to give Boston a 91-70 lead with 11:07 to go. But the Celtics immediately yielded a 10-0 run that cut their lead to 91-80 with 8:23 to go.

The Mavs pushed the run to 12-0 on the other side of a timeout before Jaylen Brown finally halted things with a jumper.

It's not exactly a new trend for the Celtics — their Game 2 victory became more of a nail-biter than it needed to be. — Jace Evans

Celtics 85, Mavericks 70: End of third quarter

In the third quarter, Jayson Tatum picked up right where he left off in the first half. He knocked down a 3 with 8:45 remaining in the quarter, his fourth of the game, to give the Celtics a 64-59 lead. He wasn’t the only one to start hot. Boston opened the second half 6-of-6 from the field.

A 3 from Jaylen Brown and a slam dunk from Tatum pushed Boston’s lead to 10 with 6:09 remaining. The Mavericks responded, but couldn’t hold off the surging Celtics, who extended their lead back to double digits to end the quarter, 85-70.

The Celtics outscored the Mavericks 35-19 in the third quarter. Brown scored 13 of his 21 points in thethird. Tatum is up to 27 points for the game.

Luka Doncic has 25 points and Kyrie Irving has 26.

Celtics perfect to start third quarter

Boston has hit all six of its second-half shots and now leads 64-59 with 8:44 to go in the third quarter.

The baskets have come from the big guns: Jayson Tatum has two baskets, Jaylen Brown has two baskets and Jrue Holiday has two baskets. — Jace Evans

Mavericks 51, Celtics 50: Halftime

DALLAS — Star guards Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic combined for 37 of Dallas’ 51 first-half points, and the Mavs owned a 51-50 halftime lead against Boston in Game 3.

Irving had 20 points in the first half – and he hadn’t scored more than 16 either of the first two games of the Finals in Boston. Doncic added 17 points, and at one point in the second quarter, Irving and Doncic had taken 24 of Dallas’ 35 shots, scored 27 of its 38 points and no other Mavs player had attempted more than two shots.

Boston wasn’t swayed by the scoring production from Irving and Doncic. At some point in the NBA Finals, the Celtics were going to need Jayson Tatum’s scoring, and he delivered a series-high 20 points in the first half. Reserve Sam Hauser had nine points (three 3-pointers), and Jaylen Brown added six points, five assists, three rebounds and a block for Boston.

Both teams shot 33.3% on 3-pointers but Boston made four more 3s to keep the game close. — Jeff Zillgitt

Patrick Mahomes in the buildingfor NBA Finals Game 3

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is in attendance for Game 3 of the Finals.

The Texas native was courtside at American Airlines Center between the Celtics and Mavericks benches, alongside his wife Brittany. This is not the first game that Mahomes has attended these playoffs. He previously attended Game 3 of the Western Conference finals between the Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves with Chiefs teammates Travis Kelce and Hollywood Brown.

Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving having best games of 2024 NBA Finals

It appears Jayson Tatum is taking the conversation surrounding who the Boston Celtics' best player is personally.

Tatum scored a team-high 20 points in the first half of Game 3, already eclipsing his high score in these NBA Finals. Tatum is shooting 7-for-15 from the field, including 3-of-8 from 3. Tatum also has four rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Kyrie Irving has also already cleared his high for these Finals. He has a team-high 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3. — Cydney Henderson

Mavericks 31, Celtics 30: End of first quarter

DALLAS — Playing Game 3 at home provided a boost for the Dallas Mavericks. At least initially.

Dallas took a 31-30lead into the second quarter against Boston and its 25-12 advantage with 4:48 left in the first quarter was its largest lead of the series.

The Mavs made 11 of their first 16 shots and ended up at 54.2% for the quarter. Luka Doncic had 13 points, three assists and three rebounds, and Kyrie Irving had nine points for the Mavs.

The Celtics are without Kristaps Porzingis, who sustained a “torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon" in Game 2, according to the team.

Big man Xavier Tillman was the first Celtic off the bench, and the Celtics closed the gap. Jayson Tatum had his scoring going, finishing the quarter with 13 points. Reserve Sam Hauser made two 3-pointers for six points. The Celtics had eight assists on 10 made field goals.— Jeff Zillgitt

Mavericks jump out to early lead — their largest of Finals

The Mavericks came out the gate strong, opening Game 3 on a 25-12 run, marking Dallas’ largest lead of the NBA Finals so far. Luka Doncic has nine of those points, in addition to two rebounds and three assists, while Kyrie Irving has nine points. The Mavericks are shooting 68.8% from the field (11-of-16) and 33.3% from 3 (2-of-6).

A seven-point run by the Celtics cut the Mavericks' lead to 25-19, prompting coach Jason Kidd to call timeout. — Cydney Henderson

Jerry West honored ahead of Game 3

Game 3 of the NBA Finals started on a solemn note.

Ahead of tip-off between the Celtics and Mavericks, a moment of silence was held in Dallas at American Airlines Center for the late Jerry West, who passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 86.

A video tribute highlighting West’s Hall of Fame career was also displayed on the Jumbotron.

"A moment of silence in honor of true legend, Jerry West," the public address announcer said in his closing remarks about West's career. — Cydney Henderson

What time is NBA Finals Game 3?

Tip-off for Celtics-Mavericks is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET from American Airlines Center in Dallas.

How to watch NBA Finals Game 3

ABC will broadcast every game of the 2024 NBA Finals.

How to stream NBA Finals Game 3

Each game of the 2024 NBA Finals can be streamed on ESPN+ or on Fubo.

NBA Finals Game 3 starting lineups: Luka Doncic in for Mavs

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic is in the starting lineup for Game 3 vs. the Celtics despite dealing with a thoracic contusion. Doncic has been banged up the entire NBA Finals series and has also been nursing a right knee sprain and left ankle soreness.

Boston will be without Kristaps Porzingis, who came off the bench in Game 1 and Game 2. Center Al Horford will continue to start in his place.

Mavericks starting lineup:

  • Luka Doncic
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Derrick Jones Jr.
  • Daniel Gafford
  • P.J. Washington

Celtics starting lineup:

  • Jaylen Brown
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Al Horford
  • Derrick White
  • Jrue Holiday

Game 3 referees

Marc Davis is the crew chief of the three-person officiating crew that also includes James Capers and Kevin Scott for Game 3. Ben Taylor is the alternate. Davis is reffing his 21st Finals game, Capers his 15th and Scott his second. — Jeff Zillgitt

Kristaps Porzingis out for Game 3

After his status for Wednesday was questionable, Kristaps Porzingis has been ruled out for Game 3. In the Game 2 victory on Sunday, he suffered a “rare injury," a torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon. The injury happened with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

"The medical team and the staff just decided that it wasn't what's best for him to go tonight," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said before Game 3. "Just be a day-to-day thing to see how he is tomorrow and the next day. ... He didn't look right. That was it. I wasn't involved in it. ... It was out of his hands, up to the medical team. They watched him kind of go through some testing, and they said it didn't feel right, so you're not playing."

Porzingis has dealt with several lower body injuries and he missed nearly six weeks of action recently dealing with a right calf injury. He’s been a solid contributor for Boston so far in the series with 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks in Game 1 and 12 points and four rebounds in Game 2.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said pregame the Celtics are "used to not having" Porzingis and didn't expect any big adjustments from the club.

"They just came out of a series without KP," Kidd said. "... For us, (it's) understanding what KP does at the rim with the shot blocking or changing shots. So we have to be aggressive when we take the ball and understand their smalls are pretty good at blocking shots, too. We have to account for who is at the rim." — Jordan Mendoza and Jeff Zillgitt

Jerry West spoke Joe Mazzulla's language

Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, 35, played college basketball at West Virginia, where NBA icon Jerry West played. Mazzulla said he wasn’t playing well for the Mountaineers when he got a phone call.

“My junior year in college, wasn't living up to anyone's standards,” I got a call. It's Jerry,” Mazzulla said. “A lot of expletives, but he basically told me I was an F-up and had the opportunity to be great at something. Just let me have it for like 10, 15 minutes. I thought it was one of the most impactful phone calls that I had really in my life.”

That wasn’t the only time West had strong words for Mazzulla.

“Stayed at his house once and overslept for UCLA open gym,” Mazzulla said. “Went down for breakfast and got another (expletive) chewing because I wasn't being competitive enough.

“The thing I remember about him is he had a tough way of showing that he loved you, but he was super, super competitive and he really, really cared about you. He showed it in a way that kind of spoke to my language.” — Jeff Zillgitt

  • Beyond the logo: Driven by losses, Jerry West's NBA legacy will last forever
  • Jerry West left indelible mark on basketball
  • Sports world reacts to death of Jerry West

Celtics' Jrue Holiday celebrating 34th birthday

What better way to celebrate your 34th birthday than the chance to go up 3-0 in the NBA Finals. That’s the opportunity Jrue Holiday has in front of him.

Holiday is ringing in his 34th trip around the sun in Dallas at American Airlines Center for Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Mavericks. The Celtics star is averaging 19 points, 9.5 rebounds and four assists so far in the 2024 NBA Finals.Cydney Henderson

NBA Finals Game 3 predictions

Here are USA TODAY SportsNBA experts’ picks and predictions for Game 3 of the 2024 NBA Finals:

  • Scooby Axson: Mavericks 111, Celtics 109
  • Mike Freeman: Mavericks 111, Celtics 109
  • Cydney Henderson: Mavericks 109, Celtics 106
  • Jordan Mendoza: Mavericks 103, Celtics 99
  • Jeff Zillgitt:Mavericks 108, Celtics 100

(Series predictions from USA TODAY staffers)

NBA Finals Game 3 odds for Mavericks-Celtics

Odds via BetMGM:


  • Mavericks: -150
  • Celtics: +125


  • Mavericks: -2.5


  • Over 214.5: -110
  • Under 214.5: -110

Mavericks need more from Kyrie Irving

DALLAS —Dallas MavericksguardKyrie Irving’s 3-point attempt from the corner hit the side of backboard. He dribbled the ball off his foot for a turnover on another possession, and he has been unable to finish at the rim with his trademark proficiency.

The first two games ofthe NBA Finalsin Boston were not Irving’s finest as unwelcoming and relentless home fans booed and jeered the former Celtics player. — Jeff Zillgitt

NBA Finals odds

According to BetMGM, the Celtics are -800 to win the NBA championship against the Mavericks. Dallas is +550.

NBA Finals MVP odds

According to BetMGM:

  • Jayson Tatum, Celtics: +145
  • Jaylen Brown, Celtics: +145
  • Luka Dončić, Mavericks: +600
  • Jrue Holiday, Celtics: +650

Celtics' MVP might just be person who doesn't play in games

Largely quiet and away from the hullabaloo that are the Finals, Brad Stevens doesn’t want attention on him. He said as much when he was named the NBA’s 2023-24 executive of the year in late April.

Since leaving the bench as Boston’s head coach for the front office in 2021, Stevens has tinkered with the roster, making moves for this season that have given the Celtics their best team during theJaylen Brown-Jayson Tatumera and their best chance to win their first title since 2008. — Jeff Zillgitt

How Jayson Tatum's growth is impacting Celtics, NBA Finals

A youngerJayson Tatumwould’ve let his shooting struggles bother him so much that it negatively impacted other parts of his game.

Maybe even Jayson Tatum of a year ago.

But not today’s Jayson Tatum.

Tatum, theBoston Celtics' star forward, is wiser, with his mind fixated on what matters – winning a championship. — Jeff Zillgitt

NBA Finals schedule

Boston leads series 2-0

  • Game 1:Celtics 107, Mavericks 89
  • Game 2:Celtics 105, Mavericks 98
  • Wednesday, June 12: Game 3 at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Friday, June 14: Game 4 at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • *Monday, June 17: Game 5 at Boston, 8:30 p.m. on ABC
  • *Thursday, June 20: Game 6 at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. on ABC
  • *Sunday, June 23: Game 7 at Boston, 8 p.m. on ABC

How many championships have the Celtics won?

Boston’s 17 NBA championships are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for most in league history. The Celtics’ last NBA Finals win came in 2008 when Doc Rivers’ team, led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, knocked off the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers in six games. The Celtics lost in the NBA Finals in 2010 (to same Lakers in seven games) and 2022 (to Golden State Warriors in six games).

  • PHOTOS: NBA champions through the years

How many championships have the Mavericks won?

Dallas has one NBA title to its name, coming in 2011 when Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd (the Mavericks’ current coach) beat the Miami Heat in six games. It was Miami’s first season as the "Heatles," a nickname given due to their worldwide appeal with stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up. The Mavericks went to the NBA Finals only one other time, losing in 2006 to a Heat team that had Wade, but also Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Terry and Antoine Walker.

Who won NBA Finals 2023?

The Denver Nuggets won last year’s NBA Finals in five games against the Miami Heat. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named the MVP of the series after averaging 30.2 points, 14.0 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

Recent NBA Finals winners:

  • 2023: Denver Nuggets
  • 2022: Golden State Warriors
  • 2021: Milwaukee Bucks
  • 2020: Los Angeles Lakers
  • 2019: Toronto Raptors
  • 2018: Golden State Warriors
  • 2017: Golden State Warriors
  • 2016: Cleveland Cavaliers
  • 2015: Golden State Warriors
  • 2014: San Antonio Spurs

Who owns the Dallas Mavericks?

The Adelson and Dumont familiesreached a binding agreementto purchase a majority ownership of the Dallas Mavericks from owner Mark Cuban back in November.

Miriam Adelson, the widow of Las Vegas Sands Corp. founder Sheldon Adelson, and her family said in an SEC filing it is selling $2 billion of LVS stock and “they currently intend to use the net proceeds from this offering, along with additional cash on hand, to fund the purchase of a majority interest in a professional sports franchise pursuant to a binding purchase agreement, subject to customary league approvals.”

Cuban has been one of the NBA’s most prominent owners in the past two decades andone of the most fined, racking up nearly $4 million in fines — and that doesn’t include$10 million Cuban donatedto women’s groups followingan investigation into a toxic work environment, including sexual harassment and workplace misconduct, within the Mavericks’ organization.Jeff Zillgitt

Where do the Mavericks play?

The Mavericks' home arena is the American Airlines Center, which opened in 2001. The facility has been home to the Mavericks and NHL's Dallas Stars since its opening.

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Celtics avoid collapse, defeat Mavericks to take 3-0 lead in NBA Finals: Game 3 highlights (2024)
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