Boston Celtics

Celtics-Mavs takeaways: C's one win away from title after wild Game 3

Boston survived a 22-2 Dallas run in the fourth quarter to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

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The Boston Celtics are one win away from Banner 18.

Even without star big man Kristaps Porzingis, who was ruled out with a left leg injury, the Celtics took care of business in Wednesday night's Game 3 in Dallas. After the Mavericks jumped out to an early 13-point lead, Boston weathered the storm and cut the deficit to one by the end of the quarter to quiet the American Airlines Center crowd. The C's kept it to a one-point game at the half and broke through with a dominant third quarter. They took a 15-point lead into the final frame, where things got dicey.

The Mavs reeled off a 22-2 run to cut a 21-point deficit to one. The momentum shifted back in Boston's favor after Dallas star Luka Doncic fouled out with 4:12 to play. From there, the Celtics settled back in offensively and finished off a thrilling 106-99 victory to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

The win snapped the franchise's seven-game losing streak in Game 3s while leading 2-0. It also brought Boston to 7-0 in road games this postseason and was the team's 10th consecutive win overall.

Celtics stars Jayson Tatum (31 points) and Jaylen Brown (30 points) led the way while Derrick White chipped in 16, including a huge 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving had a bounce-back performance with 35 points and Doncic notched 27 before fouling out in Dallas' defeat.

No NBA team has ever come back from down 3-0 in a playoff series. The Celtics will aim to complete the sweep Friday night in Dallas.

First, here are three takeaways from their Game 3 victory.

The Jays outduel Dallas' duo

This game was a battle between the Celtics and Mavericks' star tandems. Both carried their respective teams offensively, but the Jays did just enough on both ends to get the edge over Irving and Doncic.

Tatum shook off his lackluster shooting performances in Games 1 and 2 and came out firing in Game 3. The five-time All-Star erupted for 20 first-half points on 7-of-15 from the floor and 3-of-8 from 3-point range. He scored 16 points in all of Game 1 and 18 in Game 2.

Tatum finished with a team-high 31 points (11-26 FG, 4-13 3-PT) to go with six rebounds and five assists. There were times where his shot selection still left plenty to be desired, but when the game was in the balance, he made the right plays to lead his team to victory.

As for Brown, the Eastern Conference Finals MVP helped the C's take their largest lead of the game with a 15-point outburst in the third quarter. He ended up with 30 on 12-of-22 shooting, but his biggest play was drawing a blocking foul on Doncic to force the Mavs' star out of the game in crunch time.

Brown added eight rebounds and eight assists in what was a stellar all-around performance. It's the first time in his career that he has dished at least seven assists in consecutive games, per Celtics stats guru Dick Lipe, while he also tied a franchise record set by Larry Bird with his seventh straight playoff game of 20-plus points on .500 shooting or better.

On the Mavs' side, Irving bounced back after a rough start to the series with a game-high 35 points on 13-of-28 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3. He entered the game 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in the Finals.

Doncic had 27 points on an inefficient 11-for-27 (1-7 3-PT). It was his first time fouling out in a playoff game and only his third time fouling out in his career. He hasn't fared well in the fourth quarter in this series, totaling only eight points in the frame through three games.

Big minutes from the bench unit

The Celtics got enormous contributions from sharpshooter Sam Hauser and big man Xavier Tillman with Porzingis sidelined.

Hauser, who had been struggling in the postseason, nailed his first three 3-point attempts in Wednesday's action. He also stepped up on the defensive end with multiple standout moments going up against Irving and Doncic.

Hauser was a game-high +16 in 14 minutes.

C's coach Joe Mazzulla went with Tillman as Porzingis' replacement off the bench, and it worked wonders. Tillman, who was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies at the trade deadline, played outstanding defense on Doncic and was a +9 in 11 minutes.

Tillman also drilled his first 3-point attempt of the playoffs and finished with three points, four rebounds, and two blocks.

Live by the 3

The Celtics have thrived on the 3-point shot all season long and even after a rough shooting performance in Game 2, and a rocky start to Game 3, they weren't about to change what made them the best team in the NBA.

Boston's trust in its 3-point shooting kept Mazzulla's team in the game after going down 13 points early on. The C's shot 12 more 3-pointers (27) in the first half than the Mavs (15).

That trend continued over the final two frames. The Celtics ended up shooting 17-for-46 (37 percent) from deep compared to the Mavericks' 9-for-25 (36 percent). Even though the percentages were almost identical, Boston hit eight more 3s to offset Irving and Doncic's inside scoring.

The Celtics are now 70-8 this season when they shoot above 32 percent from 3-point range. If the 3s are falling in Game 4 on Friday, it may be time to break out the brooms.

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