Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Celtics vs Mavericks NBA Finals Game 3: Three takeaways, analysis, as Jays have Boston on doorstep of title

Iguodala addresses Doncic's weaknesses vs. Celtics
Andre Iguodala joins the Dan Patrick Show to recap Game 3 of the NBA Finals, where the Boston Celtics were able to go up 3-0 over the Dallas Mavericks.

Dallas had hope — it was coming home and facing a Boston team without center Kristaps Porzingis. Kyrie Irving was bound to play better.

It still wasn’t enough.

Boston hung around in the first half, dominated the third quarter then hung on in the fourth — when Luka Doncic fouled out — and went on to win 106-99. The Celtics now have a commanding 3-0 series lead (do you need to be reminded no team in NBA history has come back from 0-3 down?).

Here are the takeaways from Game 3.

1) The Jays — together — have Boston one win from title

Jason Kidd tried to lob a grenade into the Boston locker room after Game 1 and say Jaylen Brown is the Celtics’ best player. Boston’s players were not taking the bait, because they have come to a realization, one that has them on the doorstep of a ring:

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter whose team it is. It doesn’t matter who some talking heads or Internet trolls think is the best.

All that matters is what they can accomplish together — Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have developed a synergy over the years. They play with and off each other, not next to each other.

And together in Game 3, they scored 61 points.

Brown, with another stellar performance, is now the clear frontrunner for Finals MVP — just as he was Eastern Conference Finals MVP — but on the road Wednesday night, Tatum stepped up his scoring and put the Celtics in this position.

It’s not one of them, it’s how they have grown together. It’s the roster Brad Stevens has put around them.

The Jays — surrounded by a cast of perfectly-fitting role players — are now 15-2 in these playoffs and answered every question put in front of them. This was clear-and-away the best team in the NBA during the regular season and have carried that over to the playoffs, where they have put on an all-time performance. Boston has been dominant.

That starts with the Jays being an unstoppable unit this postseason. The outdated idea of “whose team is this?” does not apply to these Celtics. It took a long time to get here, but it’s both of theirs.

And their team is on the doorstep of winning a ring.

2) Without Porzingis, Boston’s defense still shuts down Dallas

Boston is going to hoist banner No. 18 because of its defense — one that did not need Kristaps Porzingis in the paint to keep working in Game 3.

Without the fear of Pozingis inside, Dallas got into the paint and hit shots in the first quarter. In the fourth, the Mavs looked good when they got stops — Boston had one of its offensive meltdowns, where it was all standing around, isolations, and poor decision-making — then got out and ran, forcing cross matches and scrambling. But Dallas has not been able to do that consistently against Boston.

“We missed some bunnies tonight. Understanding that that’s just part of the game, I think with fatigue, mentally and physically. We just missed some layups that we haven’t missed here in the playoffs,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “Give them credit; they make it tough. They will wear on you as the game goes on. We got off to a good start. But I didn’t see where they affected us in the sense of we missed some layups. That’s just the game of basketball. “

Dallas has a 102.1 offensive rating in the NBA Finals — that is 14.9 points per 100 below its regular season average and 4.6 below the worst offense in the NBA this past season (banged-up Memphis). Maybe part of that is the bright lights and the big stage have some of the Mavericks’ role players missing shots they normally make.

Just be sure to give Boston’s defense its due — this is a team that doesn’t roll out a minus defender to target. Everyone can help get stops, guards like Derrick White can rotate back and protect the paint, and right now that defense is on a string. It’s better with Porzingis’ shot-blocking on the back line, but Boston showed in Game 3 it doesn’t need him to win.

3) Luka Doncic’s bad habits came back to bite him

Let’s be clear: Luka Doncic is one of the five best basketball players on earth and Dallas is at home watching these NBA Finals if not for him.

But let’s be clear about this, too: Doncic has some bad habits about baiting fouls and constantly complaining to officials.

In Game 3, those bad habits came back to bite him.

Luka Doncic fouled out with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter — essentially ending a Dallas comeback to make it a game — and on both his fifth and sixth foul, he didn’t get a 50/50 call. It’s not a coincidence the close calls seemed to go against Dallas down the stretch — and that includes the sixth foul on Doncic for blocking — on a night Doncic was particularly chirpy towards the officials.

Boston’s half-court offensive strategy is to hunt Luka, and it’s wearing him down and leading to mistakes.

“Yeah, he’s definitely got a bull’s-eye on his chest,” Kidd said. “He’s got to be able to guard and understand that we’re there to protect him and help him if he does get beat.

“Again, he’s carrying a load offensively. They are putting him in every pick-and-roll and iso. He’s got to be able to play the game where he can rest on offense and let others carry the load.”

Kidd gets to the core of things: Doncic needs to be better (both short term and if he ultimately wants to win on this stage down the line), but his teammates need to step up and play a bigger role, too, or this series will not make it back to Boston.