Celtics survive late Mavericks rally to extend NBA finals lead

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Celtics survive late Mavericks rally to extend NBA finals lead

Celtics are one step closer to winning the NBA Finals
Celtics are one step closer to winning the NBA FinalsAFP
The Boston Celtics, fuelled by 26 points from Jrue Holiday (33), thwarted a desperate Dallas rally in the final minutes to beat the Mavericks 105-98 on Sunday and take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

On a night when early struggles from three-point range bedevilled the Celtics, their all-around effort on both ends of the floor saw them notch a second straight win at home.

They head to Dallas for game three on Wednesday with a commanding lead. Jaylen Brown scored 21 points and Jayson Tatum added 18 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists.

Holiday credited Tatum for keeping the Celtics offense firing despite a rough shooting night that saw Tatum make just six of 22 shots with just one three-pointer.

"I would say a lot of it was JT," Holiday said.

"They were double-teaming him and he was making the right play. The way that he played tonight, the way that he led us, getting into the paint, making plays, finding me wide open - it was all about him," Holiday added.

Hurting Mavericks star Luka Doncic - now nursing a chest contusion in addition to the right knee sprain and sore left ankle that have troubled him throughout the playoffs - delivered a triple-double of 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

But he didn't get enough help from his supporting cast.

P.J. Washington scored 17 points and eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving had 16 - connecting on seven of 18 shots and missing all three of his three-point attempts.

Doncic said turnovers and missed free-throws were also key. He had eight of the Mavericks' 15 turnovers and Dallas made just 16 of their 24 free-throws. The Celtics made 19 of their 20 from the foul line.

"At the end of the day we've got to make some more shots," Doncic said. "I think my turnovers and my missed free-throws cost us the game, so I've got to do way better in those two categories.

"But at the end of the day, we've got to make shots to win the game."

The pressure will be on back in Dallas, with Boston unbeaten on the road this post-season.

"At the end of the day it's basketball, away or home," Doncic said. "We've just got to play better basketball to win."

The Mavericks, trailing by 14 with less than four minutes remaining, made a final push and sliced the deficit to five with 1:15 to play, Doncic driving for a layup and converting the free-throw when he was fouled.

Boston's Derrick White came up with a monster block on Washington and Brown made a layup as the Celtics closed it out.

Dallas, who absorbed a roundhouse punch from the Celtics in the first quarter of game one and could never recover, came out with energy and determination on the defensive end.

Doncic scored 13 points in the first frame and Irving scored eight.

Boston pride

The Celtics, who had seven three-pointers in the first quarter on Thursday, didn't hit from long range until Al Horford connected in the waning seconds of the period and Dallas led 28-25 after one.

Tatum got untracked with a layup early in the second, then found Kristaps Porzingis for a pull-up jumper and fed Derrick White for a three-pointer that gave the Celtics their first lead of the game, 36-35, with 8:01 left in the second quarter. Boston came out of the back-and-forth battle with a 54-51 halftime lead.

A 10-0 run saw the Celtics take control in the third and with everyone involved they calmly built on their advantage.

"Very, very proud of our group," Celtics veteran Horford said. "We understood that we had to protect home court. We knew they were going to come out and be more aggressive. We were able to withstand their runs and protect home."

The only bad news on the night for Boston was an apparent injury to center Porzingis, who starred in game one in his return from a 38-day layoff with a calf injury.

Porzingis appeared to hurt his leg midway through the fourth quarter and departed after limping through a few more minutes.

However, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he had "zero" concern that Porzingis had suffered a serious setback.

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