NBA Finals: Mavericks steamroll Celtics to force Game 5

The Dallas Mavericks might still be down 3-1, but they made a very convincing argument Friday night to not count them out of the NBA Finals.

Over the course of 48 minutes, the Mavericks delivered one of the most unholy beatdowns in NBA playoff history with a 122-84 win over the Celtics, emphatically forcing a Game 5 in Boston on Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC).

The Celtics might have three more tries to put away Dallas, but they clearly have plenty to figure out if they want to celebrate an NBA record 18th championship. In fact, this game was so one-sided, the Mavericks have now outscored them across all four games of the series.

There was no shortage of history made during the game. The 38-point margin is the third-biggest blowout in Finals history, with the lead peaking at 47 points. The Celtics' 35 points at halftime were the fewest they've scored in a half under head coach Joe Mazzulla. Luka Dončić's 25 points at halftime were the most ever by a Maverick in a Finals half.

The game was so over in the third quarter that the Celtics pulled their starters, with the Mavericks soon following suit and then their reserves, such as Tim Hardaway Jr., continuing the carnage.

It still counts as only one win, though. The Celtics will enter Game 5 with home-court advantage, more rest than expected and, potentially, an available Kristaps Porziņģis. The Latvian big man didn't play a minute in Game 4 despite reportedly being available "if necessary," and his presence alone would represent an easy adjustment for Boston to make.

Dončić finished with 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting and added five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Kyrie Irving had 21 points on 10-of-18 shooting with six assists and four rebounds.

Here's how it all went down:

  • Mavs wallop Celtics, 122-84

    And that's it, Dallas wins Game 4, 122-84, with Game 5 back in Boston on Monday with the Celtics leading the series 3-1. It's the third-largest margin of victory in NBA Finals history.

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. coming alive

    With the game decided, Tim Hardaway Jr. has hit five 3s with 2:47 left in the contest. Something to build on for Game 5?

  • Mavs up 92-60 after 3 quarters

    After three quarters, the Mavs lead 92-60 and the starters will be just like us — sitting back and watching the rest of the game.

  • NBA Finals garbage time

    And just under two minutes later, just after launching a wedgie, Luka checks out, too. Kyrie and Lively join him with the Mavs up by 35. Let’s all settle in for 14 minutes of NBA Finals garbage time!

  • Celtics put up the white flag

    Boston is emptying its bench with 3:18 to play in the third. Oshae Brisset, Luke Kornet, Svi Mykhailiuk join Hauser and Pritchard. This one is going back to Boston, folks.

  • Have the Mavs found something?

    Dallas has enjoyed a ton of success tonight with this Luka-Kyrie-Josh Green-Maxi-Lively lineup. Two bigs, Green's hyperactivity getting downhill, switchable defense. Lot of utility out of this unit on both ends.

  • Lively on the boards

    Dereck Lively II’s seven offensive rebounds tonight are the most the Celtics have given up to any player in this postseason, and one off the season-high against Boston (eight, set by the Hornets’ Mark Williams in November and tied by Detroit’s Jalen Duren in December).

  • Do we believe?

    “Don’t Stop Believin’" playing in the AAC. Perhaps symbolic, perhaps, a reminder to everyone … there’s no such thing as South Detroit. Because that’s Canada.

  • Not Boston's night

    The Celtics are 7-for-21 in the paint in Game 4, including a ghastly 1-for-12 from floater range. Some of the credit belongs to the Mavericks’ defense there, but man, that is some dismal finishing.

  • No KP

    Porzingis, as some expected, is not currently on Boston's bench after he didn't see a second of playing time in the first half.

  • Luka adjusting his game

    Luka has figured out how to let the offense work for him as opposed to him creating everything. He’s attacking the closeout, using his body and getting downhill.

  • Gafford generating excitement

    What a start to the third quarter from Daniel Gafford. He just swatted Tatum's step-back 3 atteafter finishing a lob from Luka, operating in the post and connecting from the line.

  • Boston still disjointed

    For (at least) the second time tonight, Jrue Holiday passes out of a layup to kick the ball out to the corner; it ends in a drive, a contest at the rim and a missed shot that got Dallas out in transition. One long and loud Daniel Gafford lob later, the lead is 29 — 67-38 Mavs.

  • Is that bad?

    For Boston, 35 points is the lowest single-half scoring effort from the Celtics all season.

  • Mavs lead 61-35 at halftime

    Fantastic play to close the quarter by Dallas: As Luka drove into the paint, Maxi Kleber cut from under the rim into the right corner around a baseline screen. Luka, airborne and about to let his floater go, saw him and flung a wild pass to Kleber in the corner. Kleber comes off the screen clean, catches and cashes out. Perfect end to a damn-near-perfect half for the Mavs, who lead 61-35 at intermission.

  • Maxi Kleber sighting

    Quite a time for Maxi Kleber to convert. It's a corner 3-pointer right before the end of the first half to keep Dallas' advantage at 26 entering the break. He has been so hesitant and resistant to shoot all series, but with the clock winding down, he had no other option but to launch.

  • Celtics need ... something?

    Maybe Joe Mazzulla has a YouTube supercut of UFC fighters coming back to deliver a late knockout after getting the crap kicked out of them for a few rounds that he can show the Celtics at halftime.

  • Pritchard in for Brown because of foul trouble

    Payton Pritchard checks back in with 2:24 to play in the first half as Jaylen Brown's foul on Josh Green marks his third of the game.

  • Yikes

    Boston has just 9 points in 9 minutes of second-quarter action.

  • Dallas winning on the glass

    It’s a piece of wisdom frequently attributed to Pat Riley: “No rebounds, no rings.” With three minutes to go in the first half, Dallas is outrebounding Boston 28-15, with six offensive rebounds leading to nine second-chance points. The Mavs are, as Dereck Lively II said after Game 3, playing like their lives are on the line.

  • No Tim Hardaway Jr. for Mavs

    No Tim Hardaway Jr. tonight either. He was 0-of-5 in 19 minutes In Game 3. Jason Kidd not playing around. Hardaway had an opportunity but blew it.

  • Luka is stepping up

    Luka is 0-of-3 from deep, but he's got everything working inside the arc, where he's 7-of-10. He's bullied his way and head-faked into layups. His step-back has been money in the mid-range. Sixteen points, 3 boards, 2 dimes to start. He's been so engaged on defense. An excellent response so far to all the (rightful) criticism after Game 3's debacle.

  • Everything going right for Mavs

    The loose balls, the possessions under the rim, the hustle “gotta have it” plays, all going the Mavs way. Playing with emotion. At some point, it wears off. Boston is shooting 32 percent.

  • Celtics not in a groove

    That Jaylen Brown corner 3 at the 9:01 mark was Boston’s first field goal in four minutes. The Celtics’ offense has yet to get untracked — 9-for-26 from the field, 3-for-12 from 3, five turnovers against seven assists. Not a sharp start with a chance to break out the brooms.

  • Gafford is back in

    After a long, long rest, Daniel Gafford is back in the game and instantly grabs an offensive board and draws a trip to the line. He hasn't seen the floor since the game's first 2:30 and came back in with just over 8 minutes to play in the first half

  • Womp womp: Dante misstep

    After a review in Secaucus, the Exum corner 3 has been waved off because he stepped out of bounds. (Sorry, Jake.) Score’s now 36-21, Dallas.

  • Dante does it

    This is a Dante Exum fan blog. He is the only Maverick outside of Doncic and Irving who can get to the basket and create off the dribble. After a huge hammer dunk in Game 3, he opens the second quarter driving to the basket and then cashing a corner 3.

  • Boston not looking like Boston

    Thirty-four points is a series high for a single quarter for the Mavs, and they’ve been efficient: 34 in 25 possessions is good for a 136 offensive rating, which would top even the Celtics’ league-best mark from the regular season.

    Boston, on the other hand: just 21 points on 25 possessions, an 84 offensive rating. Celts need the 3-ball to start falling.

  • Dallas good from 3

    Mavs are plus-3 from the 3-point line right now. And they are keeping the C’s off the 3-point line, which was a huge reason for the Game 3 loss.

  • Big night for Lively?

    Wonder how much more we'll see Daniel Gafford tonight. He checked out about 2 minutes earlier than normal in the first quarter for Lively and did not see the floor again. Dallas' small-ball unit with Maxi at the 5 saw a good little run for the Mavericks. Meanwhile, Lively has been Dallas' clear-cut third-best player behind Luka and Kyrie ... and has absolutely contributed the best two-way performance for the Mavs through one quarter. He's been a plus-13 in seven minutes,

  • Mavs take 34-21 lead after first quarter

    Not exactly a Swiss watch of playmaking precision at the end of the first quarter there — first Kyrie Irving steps out of bounds on a would-be final attempt of the quarter, then noted heavesman Payton Pritchard does the same on the other end, and on his second chance, Kyrie doesn’t get the shot off in time. Still, the start looks pretty good for the Mavs: 34-21 after 12 minutes.

  • It's small-ball time

    Small-ball for both teams now — Maxi Kleber and PJ Washington up front for Dallas, and Jayson Tatum as the ostensible center for Boston with Brown, Hauser, White and Holiday on the wing. Haven’t seen that look at all for the C’s in this series, but with Horford dealing with early foul trouble and Tillman ineffective in his first shift, Joe Mazzulla’s looking for something.

    Having Derrick White hit a bailout prayer at the end of the shot clock off a jump ball near the end of quarter helps.

  • Luka still struggling at the FT line

    Luka's troubles at the foul line this series have also been perplexing. After drawing a foul on Al Horford, his first attempt from the charity stripe was a brutal miss. He's now 13-of-22 from the line in the NBA Finals.

  • Mavs off to another good start

    I asked Mavs head coach Jason Kidd before the game what aspects of his team’s performances in this series he’s found encouraging. The first thing he brought up: “Getting off to a good start.” Chalk up another: Luka’s already in double-figures, Dereck Lively’s got five quick points off the bench, the Mavs are shooting 60% from the floor, and they lead 21-14 with just over four minutes to go in the first quarter.

  • No Kristaps Porzingis yet

    For all of the pregame noise about Kristaps Porzingis being available, we have not seen him so far in this one. Just like Game 3, Xavier Tillman and then Sam Hauser have been the first two Celtics off Joe Mazzulla's bench

  • The Jayson Tatum riddle

    As great as Jayson Tatum was in Game 3, as great of a distributor he's been this whole series, it is still something noteworthy that Tatum has struggled to get past Doncic, or really find easy money at the basket.

  • The rookie is getting it done

    If you had “Dereck Lively II” as the Maverick most likely to make the team’s first corner 3 of the night, please head to the window and collect your winnings. The stellar rookie followed that up with a strong defensive play at the rim on Celtics reserve Xavier Tillman, followed by a lob dunk — hey, remember those? — to help stake Dallas to an early lead.

  • Dereck Lively comes alive

    Dereck Lively dunks and threes. Yes, threes, too. He’s got more than a bright future. He’s got now.

  • Mavericks coach Jason Kidd sticks up for Luka Dončić

    Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd mounted an impassioned defense of Dallas superstar Luka Dončić before Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Finals, following two days of criticism of the MVP finalist’s defensive effort and on-court temperament after he fouled out with 4:12 remaining in the Mavericks’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics.

    During his pregame session with reporters Friday, Kidd was asked about what it’s been like to watch Dončić navigate everything he’s had to deal with in this series — the massive offensive workload he has to shoulder against the Celtics’ swarming defense, the constant targeting by a Boston offense intent on exploiting his defensive shortcomings, and myriad injuries, including a thoracic contusion for which he reportedly received a pain-killing injection before Game 2. Dončić said during an interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews on Thursday that he expected he’d need another before a Game 4 in which he and his fellow Mavericks will hope to stave off elimination.

    Kidd declined comment on Dončić’s physical health: “I don't get involved with the medical; I just repeat ‘questionable,’ or ‘probable,’ or whatever he's [listed as]. So that's between medical and the player.” But he did comment on what he sees as unfair sideswipes of his lead playmaker.

    “Luka has been incredible up to this point and has still been incredible,” Kidd said. “For whatever reason, there has been some personal attacks on him, but he will learn from them. And he will be better when he comes back from it.”

    Read the full story here.

  • Derrick White, Boston's superstar role player, is what these Celtics are all about

    Whatever it takes for as long as it takes.

    The Boston Celtics adopted this mantra for the playoffs. Whether in Game 3 of the NBA Finals when they are trailing by 13 points in the opening 12 minutes or their 21-point lead is unraveling in the fourth quarter, whatever it takes for as long as it takes, and nobody embodies that mantra better than Derrick White.

    A member of Team USA's 2019 FIBA World Cup roster, White joined the Celtics from the San Antonio Spurs. He was well-versed in selfless basketball. He also arrived in Boston in February 2022 in a state of flux, midway through this core's initial run to the NBA Finals, his wife pregnant with their first-born son.

    "I was actually with him in Miami the day Hendrix was born," says White's trainer, Marcus Mason, recalling the morning of Game 2 of the 2022 Eastern Conference finals. "I'll never forget just how nervous he was. He wasn't nervous about playing basketball. I know the difference. He was nervous about being a dad."

    Forgive White if he was finding his footing, unwilling to step on Jayson Tatum's and Jaylen Brown's toes. The growth of White over the past two seasons has coincided with the growth of a champion in Boston.

    Read the full story here.

  • Luka Dončić is starting his NBA Finals journey under the spotlight with no place to hide

    Jayson Tatum remembers how it felt: being just five minutes away from a 3-1 lead in his first NBA Finals … only to watch Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green lead a 17-3 closing kick to steal Game 4, home-court advantage and, eventually, the championship.

    “We learned from our mistakes,” Tatum said Wednesday, two years removed from that lesson, after his Celtics took a 3-0 lead in the 2024 NBA Finals. “We learned from a team at the time that was better than us — that had been there and been over that hump, and mentally tougher at the time.

    “We've grown from that. We really have.”

    Jaylen Brown remembers how it felt: having crawled out of the insurmountable 0-3 hole to force a Game 7 in the 2023 Eastern Conference finals … only to see Tatum sprain his ankle on the opening possession, all but eliminating his ability to create off the dribble. With the offense suddenly resting on his shoulders and the spotlight trained squarely on him, Brown faltered, shooting 8-for-23 from the field with eight turnovers in a loss he says haunted him for months.

    “Last year, just falling short on your home floor, it definitely hurt. It was embarrassing, in my opinion,” Brown said at Celtics practice on Thursday, ahead of Friday’s closeout opportunity in Game 4. “I felt like the team was relying on me. JT got hurt in Game 7 and I dropped the ball. To me, it was embarrassing. It drove me all summer. Drove me crazy.”

    It drove him here — to playing like a two-way superstar in the biggest games of his career; to the precipice of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy; to the verge of redemption, or something like it.

    “My experiences, the heartbreaks, the losses, have all kind of cultivated into what you see now,” Brown said at Tuesday’s practice. “I don't want to feel that again.”

    Which brings us to Luka Dončić — both the unwitting foil in this chapter of Tatum and Brown’s entry in the Celtics’ august history, and the latest young superstar to set out on his own hero’s journey on the Finals stage.

    Read the full story here.