2024 NBA Finals

Finals Alteration: 3 potential adjustments before Game 4 of Celtics-Mavs

Can Boston close out the Finals with a sweep in Dallas, or will the Mavs stave off elimination and force a Game 5?

The Celtics escape Dallas with a 3-0 lead in the 2024 NBA Finals, leaving the Mavericks on the brink heading into Game 4.

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After taking Game 3, can the Celtics complete a Finals series sweep? Or, will Dallas get a win in Friday’s matchup and send the series back to Boston?

Here are 3 potential adjustments ahead of Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV (8:30 ET, ABC).

1. Doncic the playmaker

Luka Doncic had six assists in Game 3, all of which came in Dallas’ two best stretches of the game.

  • Start of game (Tip-off to 4:48 left in 1st quarter): The Mavs exploded out of the gates, building their largest lead of the game (13 points) in the game’s first 7:12. This run saw Doncic and Kyrie Irving score nine points apiece, while the Mavs got one bucket each from Derrick Jones Jr., Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford – all on assists from Doncic.
  • 4th quarter run (10:14 to 6:11): After trailing by 21 a minute into the fourth quarter, the Mavs went on a 20-2 run to make it a three-point game. During this stretch — before Doncic fouled out with 4:12 remaining – the Mavs got eight points from P.J. Washington (two 3-pointers assisted by Doncic and two free throws), five points from Irving (a floater and three free throws) and a combined seven points from Doncic (layup), Lively (tip-in) and Josh Green (3-pointer assisted by Doncic).
  • All together: In 11:15 of total game time, Doncic had nine points and seven assists and the Mavs outscored the Celtics by 31 points.

2. Mavericks need help from others

In Game 3, Irving (35 points) and Doncic (27) combined to score 62 points, 17 more than they averaged in the first two games in Boston (48 in Game 2, 42 in Game 1).

However, Jayson Tatum (31) and Jaylen Brown (30) combined to score 61 points, essentially cancelling each other out and giving the Celtics the advantage thanks to their depth.

Looking ahead to Game 4, the Mavs have two options:

  1. Get the others going: Dallas must find a way to create scoring opportunities for players not named Doncic or Irving. Boston has effectively shut down the lobs and corner 3-pointers that the Mavs relied on to reach the Finals. How else can Jones, Washington, Gafford and Lively be effective? Can Tim Hardaway Jr. or Dante Exum provide a spark as coach Jason Kidd went deep into his bench in Game 3?
  2. Combine for 80-plus points: If the Mavs can’t share the scoring load effectively and it falls on Doncic and Irving, then those two stars will have to go supernova — similar to what we saw last year between the Suns and Nuggets when Devin Booker and Kevin Durant were unstoppable.

Boston’s defense will have much to do with how this plays out. Can the Celtics continue to defend Doncic and Irving one-on-one and stay home on role players? Can the Mavs stars get hot and force the Celtics to adjust mid-game and thus open up scoring opportunities for their teammates?

3. Celtics must pressure Doncic

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And in this case, do more of it.

The Celtics have consistently attacked Doncic on defense throughout the Finals and it has impacted both ends of the court.

  • Boston’s offense: The Celtics have attempted 19 more shots against Doncic (61) than any other Maverick in the Finals (Washington is second at 42). Boston is collectively shooting 45.9% against Doncic for the series, with Games 1 and 3 over 52%.
  • Dallas’ offense: There is a cumulative effect to all of the effort Boston is forcing Doncic to expend on defense as he is struggling on offense in the second half. Through three games, Luka is averaging 19 ppg on 53.5% shooting in the first half, compared to 10.7 ppg on 38.7% shooting in the second half.
  • Quick turnaround: With only one day off between Games 3 and 4 — the shortest rest of the Finals schedule — Boston can continue to wear Doncic down with its offense in Game 4.

NBA TV's experts break down how the Celtics delivered late in the 4th quarter to win Game 3.