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Celtics land the biggest punches again, top Mavericks 106-99 to move 1 win from NBA title

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown shared a long hug after helping Boston avoid the biggest collapse in an NBA Finals game since at least 1997. The reward? The Celtics stars are on the brink of joining the litany of big-name predecessors to put a banner above the parquet floor back home. Tatum scored 31 points, Brown had 30 and the Celtics held off a furious Dallas rally to move to the verge of a record 18th championship with a 106-99 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night for a 3-0 lead.

Quick Read

  • The Boston Celtics are one win away from their 18th NBA championship after defeating the Dallas Mavericks 106-99 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, taking a commanding 3-0 series lead.
  • Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, inspired by UFC matches, instills a fighters’ mentality in his team, emphasizing the importance of staying prepared and resilient.
  • Key runs of 23-8 in the first half and 20-5 in the second half by the Celtics proved decisive, despite the Mavericks nearly closing a 21-point deficit.
  • Luka Doncic fouled out with 4:12 remaining, a controversial call that was upheld despite Dallas’ contention that Jaylen Brown initiated the contact.
  • Doncic’s exit occurred with the Mavericks down by three points, and without their star player, Dallas couldn’t complete a comeback.
  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum highlighted the team’s anticipation and readiness for Dallas’ early push, which saw the Mavericks leading 25-12 before Boston rallied.
  • Boston’s ability to deliver crucial runs has been a consistent theme throughout the series, helping them seize control in key moments.
  • Mazzulla’s strategy includes warnings against losing focus, emphasizing that complacency can lead to costly mistakes.
  • The Celtics are now focused on maintaining their fighting spirit and closing out the series in Game 4 on Friday night.
  • Tatum and the team remain determined not to relax and to continue their aggressive approach until they secure the championship.

The Associated Press has the story:

Celtics land the biggest punches again, top Mavericks 106-99 to move 1 win from NBA title

Newslooks- DALLAS (AP) —

Joe Mazzulla is a big fan of UFC matches and splices highlights of fights into some of the basketball video he shows the Boston Celtics. He doesn’t do it for entertainment purposes or to make players laugh. He does it for a simple reason. He wants the Celtics to have a fighters’ mentality.

“If you’ve ever been in a fight with someone and you think you’re about to beat ’em, you usually get sucker-punched,” said Mazzulla, the second-year Celtics coach. “The closer you are to beating them up, the closer you are to losing.”

Translation: He wanted the Celtics ready for a fight. And in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, they were.

A pair of big runs — 23-8 in the first half, 20-5 in the second half — represented what became the knockout blows in this game, and maybe this series. Boston frittered away almost all of what was a 21-point lead before winning 106-99 to take a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals, moving one win away from what would be their record-setting 18th championship.

“Our guys have a great basketball IQ and have a great understanding of are we playing the right way, taking the right shots and giving up the right shot.” Mazzulla said. “They know exactly when we are not doing that. So, they have an innate ability to control the runs of the game with the philosophy that we have.”

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, left, dribbles against Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)

As is often the case with fights, the judges — in this case, the referees — had a big decision to make and it wasn’t one that was popular. Luka Doncic fouled out with 4:12 remaining, a call that held up under review despite Dallas’ arguments that Jaylen Brown initiated the contact on that play, and the Mavs were without their best puncher in what amounted to the 12th round of this fight.

“We couldn’t play physical,” Doncic said. “I don’t know. I don’t want to say nothing. … C’mon, man.”

Doncic fouled out with the Mavericks having gotten within three; there was no miracle finish. Boston did enough to hang on, and now a championship could be in its hands as early as Friday night when the teams meet in Game 4.

And the big punch — sometimes early, sometimes not — has been a theme for Boston throughout this series. Dallas ran out to a 25-12 lead early Wednesday; that lead was basically gone by the end of the first quarter.

“We expected their first punch,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said.

Control of Game 1 was seized early with a 23-5 run by the Celtics. In Game 2, a 15-4 run in the second half proved to basically be the difference. In Game 3, there were the two big spurts. Mazzulla warned the Celtics that any spell where focus is lost could cost them games. Clearly, they’ve listened.

“Closer you think you’re going to submit someone, is usually when you get submitted,” Mazzulla said.

There’s no championship belt, like the ones fighters get, coming when this series is over. But the trophy is within sight now.

“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Tatum said. “We can’t relax.”

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