2024 NBA Finals

Finals MVP Ladder: Jaylen Brown stays at No. 1, Luka Doncic climbs to 3rd

Luka Doncic's huge 1st half helps the Mavericks roll past the Celtics and force the NBA Finals back to Boston for Game 5.

Luka Doncic is the 3rd-youngest player to score 25 points or more in the first half of an NBA Finals game.

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DALLAS — A Joe Mazzulla philosophy turned into a premonition manifesting itself a tad later than expected.

Credit Luka Doncic for proving Mazzulla’s words prophetic Friday in Game 4 of the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV. Doncic walloped Boston with a 25-point first half, as Dallas built an insurmountable 26-point lead at intermission on the way to a 122-84 smackdown of a confident Celtics squad seeking a 4-0 sweep.

“The closer you think you are to beating someone is the closer you are to getting your [butt] kicked,” Mazzulla said ahead of Game 3.

Point taken. Since the fourth quarter of Game 3, Dallas has outscored the Boston Celtics 151-105 on the strength of Doncic’s offensive wizardry. Doncic poured in a game-high 29 points with five rebounds and five assists with only one turnover to move into the top three of our Race to the NBA Finals MVP Ladder.

Plenty of work remains though, considering Dallas trails 3-1 in the series as it heads back to Boston for Monday’s Game 5 (8:30 ET, ABC) at TD Garden.

No team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the Finals to win a title.

Can Doncic and the Mavs make history?

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

1. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Last ranking: No. 1

NBA Finals stats: 20.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.8 apg

Consistent throughout the Finals, Brown delivered his first dud, shooting 3-for-12 with 10 points and two turnovers, before Mazzulla pulled in the third quarter. Brown had produced seven-straight playoff games with 20-plus points on 50% shooting or better, tying Larry Bird’s franchise record. Time to reset the counter.

2. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Last ranking: No. 2

NBA Finals stats: 20 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.3 apg

Attempted 10 shots and committed the second-most turnovers (3) on the team. The 26-year-old started aggressively, racking up 11 points in the first frame on 4-for-7 shooting. But the rest of the way, Tatum fired up just three more attempts for four more points and struggled defensively in the post on Daniel Gafford.

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Last ranking: No. 5

NBA Finals stats: 29.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 5.8 apg

Doncic now ranks as the third-youngest player to score 25 points or more in the first half of an NBA Finals game, hitting 10-for-18 over the first two quarters with four assists and a steal. Dallas’ 38-point margin of victory registers as the third largest in Finals history. Doncic is well aware of the task that lies ahead in Boston.

4. Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks

Last ranking: No. 3

NBA Finals stats: 21 ppg, 3 rpg, 4 apg

We know Irving for the artistry in his offensive game, but don’t sleep on the work he’s putting in on defense. Irving shot the ball surgically, hitting 10-for-18 with six assists as he and Doncic outscored the Boston Celtics 36-35 in the opening half. It’s also worth noting that, in 2016, Irving played a role in the largest comeback in Finals history.

5. Jrue Holiday, Boston Celtics

Last ranking: No. 1

NBA Finals stats: 14.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.8 apg

Known for his penchant for creating turnovers for the opponent, Holiday committed too many of them (a team-high five) in Game 4. Holiday entered the contest having played 134 minutes since his last turnover, which was committed in the third quarter of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals at Indiana.

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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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