2024 NBA Finals

Finals MVP Ladder: Consistent Jaylen Brown takes top spot after Game 3

Massive performances from Boston's star tandem lead the Celtics to a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combine for 61 points during a pivotal Game 3 of the 2024 NBA Finals.

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DALLAS — Three days of widespread Jayson Tatum consternation all over the world seemed equivalent to Dallas calling out the name “Candyman” five times in front of a mirror.

Tatum heard the talk and responded resoundingly in Game 3, holding off the home team alongside Jaylen Brown. The Celtics duo combined for 61 points in a 106-99 win over the Mavericks without the services of Kristaps Porzingis.

The performance ruined what should’ve been a redemptive night for Kyrie Irving, who shook off duds in Games 1 and 2 with a game-high 35 points, only to watch that effort crumble to rubble once Luka Doncic fouled out with 4:12 remaining.

Boston takes a commanding 3-0 series lead in the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV into Friday’s potential elimination clash at American Airlines Center. No NBA team has ever rallied from down 3-0 to win a best-of-seven series.

Here is the Top 5 in our 2024 Race to the NBA Finals MVP Ladder after Game 3:

1. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Last ranking: No. 3

NBA Finals stats: 24.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.7 apg

Tatum led Boston in scoring, but Brown has been more consistent. He produced a game-high 15 points in the third quarter, combining with Tatum to outscore the Mavs 22-19 in building a 15-point lead, before fouling out Doncic with the game on the line. As usual, Brown was clutch down the stretch.

2. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Last ranking: No. 4

NBA Finals stats: 21.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 7.3 apg

Tatum started fast with 13 points in the first frame on his way to matching Irving’s game-high 20 points in the first half. Tatum kept Boston in contention over that span as Irving and Doncic combined for 37 points before Brown joined the party in the second half. Tatum earned his jubilant stroll to the visitors’ locker room.

3. Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks

Last ranking: No. 5 

NBA Finals stats: 21 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.3 apg

Averaged 26.5 ppg in the first round, 15.7 ppg in the conference semifinals and 27 ppg in the West Finals. Irving averaged just 14 in Games 1 and 2 on 35.1% shooting and was 0-for-8 on 3-pointers. In Game 3, Irving was 4-for-5 from range in the first half alone to become the first Mav besides Doncic to hit multiple 3s in this series.

4. Jrue Holiday, Boston Celtics

Last ranking: No. 1

NBA Finals stats: 15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 4.3 apg

Derrick White deserves mention after his Game 3 performance (16 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks). But Holiday stays in this spot for consistency, versatility and hustle in this series. The scoring numbers don’t pop off the page. But the effort plays certainly do. The vet won’t completely shut down his defensive assignments, but he’ll sure make life tough on them.

5. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Last ranking: No. 2

NBA Finals stats: 29.7 ppg, 9 rpg, 6 apg

A tough first-half showing. But Doncic fouled out for the third time in his career and the first time in the playoffs. This disqualification couldn’t have come at a worse time with 4:12 left and Dallas trailing by 3. Mavs coach Jason Kidd has harped on Doncic on several occasions for letting disagreements with officiating take him out of games.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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