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The biggest questions from Game 3 between the Mavericks and Celtics

The Celtics are now one win from an NBA-record 18th title. Our experts answer the biggest questions after Game 3 turned from rout to roller coaster.

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The Boston Celtics are one win from capturing the 2024 NBA title -- and they earned it.

Boston built its fourth-quarter lead to 21 points before a frantic rally by the Dallas Mavericks turned Wednesday's Game 3 into a roller coaster. However, the Celtics withstood every late charge by the Mavericks, who lost superstar guard Luka Doncic in the final minutes after he fouled out on a controversial blocking call, and took a 3-0 lead in the Finals behind a 106-99 victory in Dallas.

The Celtics also won despite big man Kristaps Porzingis being sidelined by a leg injury. His status remains day-to-day, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported there is "real doubt" over Porzingis' status moving forward.

How did Boston overcome Porzingis' injury and hold off Dallas' late rally? Are these Finals headed for a Celtics sweep? Our NBA Insiders are breaking down the wild finish to Game 3, Doncic's uneven performance and what lies ahead in Friday's Game 4 (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Tim Bontemps: That Boston still hasn't quite shaken all of its bad habits but still has enough talent to close out this series. The fourth quarter was a highlight reel of Boston's past issues -- poor offensive execution, lapses in concentration and overall head-scratching decision-making. But after giving up a 22-2 run that got Dallas back within a point, Boston was able to lock in defensively down the stretch. It was enough to move the Celtics one win away from an NBA-record 18th championship -- even if it became far more stressful than it should have been.

Chris Herring: The Celtics are inevitable. It didn't matter that Porzingis wasn't there, because Xavier Tillman could hold his own in his minutes. It didn't matter that Kyrie Irving finally found his offense, because so did Jayson Tatum. It didn't matter that the Mavericks took their biggest lead of the series early in Game 3, because Boston had an otherworldly Jaylen Brown showing in the third quarter and managed to escape after doing just enough to hold off a late, furious Dallas run.

Brian Windhorst: The Celtics are finally over the hump, and they have one hand on banner No. 18. They had to survive their late-game demons, maybe just to make it feel like they earned it. Boston has lost a handful of playoff games in this exact fashion over the past several years, and during that 20-2 run in the fourth quarter there was that old sick feeling. But the Celtics' stars all made a play or two -- and collectively, that was enough, mostly because they now have so many stars. And it is time to celebrate them, because they've earned it in true Celtics fashion.

Windhorst: Completely unacceptable. No one can tell Doncic anything. Not teammates, not coaches, not executives, not media, not fans, not referees. There have been a lot of pleas and promises that he'll improve, but this one is going to leave a mark. He is a truly brilliant player, once in a generation. But he is going to have to look in the mirror and confront his weaknesses before he's on the other side of a Finals. His defensive effort in these Finals has simply been crushing to his team, his complaining to the referees is painful and his frustration fouls probably just cost his team a chance at making this a series because he fouled out. He is one of the biggest stars in the league, and that means he is held to a higher standard, especially at this level. He failed to meet it in this game, and he's going to have to deal with that whether he likes it or not.

Bontemps: Not good enough. Doncic scored a lot of points, but the Celtics once again put the clamps on Doncic and Irving's teammates, forcing the duo to try to beat the best offense in NBA history by themselves. And for all of their individual brilliance, that wasn't ever going to be enough for Dallas to win. And Doncic's defense -- which was an ever-present issue during the first two games of this series -- was even worse in Game 3. Boston has the ability to put more pressure on Doncic than virtually any other team in the league by having either Brown or Jrue Holiday attack him for 94 feet defensively while any of Boston's perimeter players go at him on the other end. And as this series has gone on, it has appeared to take a toll on Doncic's energy levels, which led to some of the fouls that caused him to foul out of Game 3.

Herring: Incredible in some ways. Some of his baskets were a thing of beauty. But the nature of some of the looks he created, for himself and his teammates, still weren't good enough for chunks of the game. (This doesn't even speak to the times he failed to get back defensively after a call didn't go his way, especially during two plays to end the first quarter, which helped Boston pick up five quick points.) The third quarter, in particular, was a massive contrast in style: The Mavs took 21 shots, with 15 of them coming off the dribble, while the Celtics took 20 attempts, with just seven of those being off the dribble. The quality of the looks have consistently been the difference in this series, as Doncic and Irving are having to work too hard to simply keep it close.

Bontemps: Not reverting to their bad habits, which were on display in the fourth quarter of Game 3. For most of this series, Boston has stuck with its process even when shots aren't falling and things aren't working perfectly, and it has paid off. Then came the final 10 minutes of Game 3, when the Celtics frittered away a 21-point lead. If Boston stays true to itself, it should win Game 4. If it does what it did late in this one, then the Mavericks can absolutely send this series back to Boston.

Herring: To not overthink the situation. The way they naturally play, with ball movement and solid defense -- both individually and as a unit -- is more than enough to beat this Dallas club, even when the Celtics are at less than full strength. As Tim said, they just have to stay away from the hero-ball tendencies they sometimes showcase. A championship is within their grasp, and they merely need to keep playing team basketball, which has repeatedly proved to outlast the Mavs' system that depends on one-on-one looks.

Windhorst: The Celtics started this journey when they made the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013. They've methodically added players, made shrewd trades, had setbacks, dealt with playoff shortfalls, revamped their roster, managed a severe coaching change, honed their style and created a nearly perfect team for 2024. Whether the sweep happens or not, Boston has assembled a brilliant roster that has managed to peak at the right time, and it should be celebrated when the series is finished.
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MCWS 2024: Top storylines, bold predictions and picks for Omaha

Our college baseball experts tell us what they're most excited to see in Omaha this year.

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The Men's College World Series begins Friday, and seven of the eight spots have been filled by top-16 teams, the one outlier being Florida, the 2023 national runner-up. This year's field is also made up of only SEC (No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Texas A&M and Florida) and ACC (No. 4 North Carolina, No. 8 Florida State, No. 10 NC State and No. 12 Virginia) schools. The edge is with the SEC as the conference has won the past four MCWS titles. But with a newcomer to the party in Omaha, teams that have made plenty of visits but never hoisted the trophy and others looking for redemption, there is plenty to watch in this year's tournament. Our experts break down this year's MCWS, the storylines and players they're watching and give their bold predictions of what to expect in Omaha over the next week and a half. Jump to: Storylines | Players | Most to prove Bold predictions | Who's winning it all? 1. What storylines are you most excited to see play out? Ryan McGee: I am fascinated by the unfinished business aspect of this series. Florida and Virginia have won it all before. That's it. Florida State is the greatest program to never have dogpiled in Omaha. NC State, Tennessee, Texas A&M ... all have long been near the top of everyone's "How has this place never been better at baseball?" lists. UNC is still scarred by the heartbreak of 2006-07. Kentucky has never even been to Omaha before. Something's gotta give, right? Kiley McDaniel: It's hard to ignore the portal/NIL era leading to a top-heavy group of traditional powers with resources. That's in even more stark relief this year as the MCWS is a showdown of half ACC and half SEC teams, with no Oral Roberts interloping like in 2023. The pool of teams that can get to Omaha might be getting a bit smaller, but the level of competition at the top of the sport is getting higher, as more good players end up at these schools. Mike Rooney: Can the ACC stop a streaking SEC? The ACC has long been an outstanding baseball conference. But this year felt different. The teams at the top traded punches with the SEC during the regular season. Florida State outscored Florida 45-15 in its three-game sweep of the Gators. Clemson swept rival South Carolina in two games. Omaha is different, though. The SEC programs seem to find a different gear in Nebraska. Hence the five national titles (by five different teams) in the past six completed seasons. This should be fun. Chris Burke: Can the No. 1 national seed break the 24-year streak of not holding the trophy at the end? Tennessee comes into the MCWS as the No. 1 overall seed and is playing a brand of ball that has seen it finish the season winning nine straight SEC series, the SEC regular-season title, the SEC tournament title and going 5-1 through the tournament so far. It's an offense that has the second-most homers in the history of college baseball in a park that tends to be home run stingy. Can the Vols do it? Will be interesting to watch. 2. Which players are you keeping your eyes on? McGee: The easy answer here is Jac Caglianone and the 1-2 MLB draft punches -- Christian Moore and James Tibbs -- from Tennessee and FSU. And I was SO curious to see Texas A&M's Braden Montgomery, an outfielder who was to be playing in Omaha for the third consecutive season, the first two with Stanford, before he broke his ankle in super regionals. So, how about UNC's Vance Honeycutt? That dude knows drama better than most Hollywood writers. In supers, he hit a walk-off homer to beat West Virginia in Game 1, then the next pitch he saw, nearly a full day later, he hit it out, too! McDaniel: Ryan Waldschmidt from Kentucky is soaring up boards into the middle of the first round, even higher than my last mock draft had him. Same goes for Christian Moore at Tennessee. Both could continue rising with performances on the big stage. Teams are still split on Honeycutt, but his performances to close the year are likely also helping him, and he could go the middle of the first round, as well. Rooney: This might be getting in the weeds, but give me the North Carolina bullpen. There is a certain intimidation to playing a team with a shutdown bullpen. The opposing dugout feels pressure to secure a lead in the first five innings or feel the consequences. And this is especially true when it is a group of arms like the Tar Heels' relief quartet. Dalton Pence, Ben Peterson, Matt Poston and Matthew Matthijs provide skipper Scott Forbes with unique looks and a volume of cards to play. This group is talented, and it is tested. Could it be UNC's separator in Omaha? Burke: Honeycutt. He's not ranked as the top draft prospect in Omaha, but he's as talented as any college player in the game. With elite speed, explosive power and game-changing defense, this dude is must-see TV. Also, he has been on a serious heater in the postseason! If he stays hot, he's the type of talent who can carry the Tar Heels to the finals. 3. Who/what team has the most to prove in Omaha? McGee: Tennessee has to prove it can handle this stage. After years of being OK with occasional flashes of brilliance, the Vols are now ranked No.1 with regularity, but they always find a way to not close the deal. If Tony Vitiello can keep their Big Orange emotions from getting in the way, as they have before, then they could win it all and who knows what floodgates that might open in the years to come. McDaniel: Kentucky is the new kid on the block and the SEC needs to win this coin flip with the ACC to continue asserting that it's the best conference. If Tennessee wins, Vitiello might have the most leverage of any coach in a while as we head into silly season. Rooney: The Aggies have been lauded as one of the most talented teams in college baseball in 2024. And here they are in Omaha. However, they arrive without the services of recently injured superstar right fielder Montgomery. How many teams can withstand the loss of a top-10 pick? The Aggies could also be down a weekend starter as left-hander Shane Sdao came out of his super regional start with an apparent arm injury. Sdao had been brilliant down the stretch. If any roster could overcome these losses, it's this one. But it won't be easy against this field. Burke: Kentucky. Is it there to win it or is it just happy to be there? Sometimes the joy of arriving in Omaha, especially for the program's first time, can take your eyes off the goal at hand. The Cats are built to produce offense in this environment, but I'm really curious how they deal with this grand event in their first go-around. 4. What's your bold prediction for this year? McGee: A team from the South will win it all! Just kidding. We will have one of the two in-state showdowns in the championship series, either FSU vs. Florida or UNC vs. NC State ... though that might just be the sportswriter "please give me that awesome story to write!" in me. McDaniel: Florida was an inconsistent team this year that started regionals as a 3-seed, but I have the Gators right there with rivals Florida State and Tennessee as the well-balanced teams that are hot at the right time. With Florida alone in Bracket 2 while FSU and Tennessee are in Bracket 1, I have the Gators going to the MCWS finals. Rooney: You want bold. Here you go. At the worst hitters' ballpark in all of college baseball (Charles Schwab Field), Caglianone will hit four home runs and tie Charlie Condon of Georgia for the national lead. Condon's season ended in supers, and he sits at 37 home runs. "Cags" will need four bombs to catch him. That is a big ask. But Caglianone has gone on legendary heaters before. His 2024 season includes both a 30-game hitting streak and a nine-game home run streak. The latter is a college baseball record. "The Chuck Box" is a huge park, but it's not big enough to hold this guy. Burke: This is the last time we see Caglianone pitch. Throughout his career we have compared Cags with Shohei Ohtani and dreamed about the potential of the game's next great two-way star. Well, as his career has unfolded, the offense has completely overshadowed the pitching to the point where I think this MCWS will be the last time we see Cags on the bump. What a run it has been, as he has been so good at both for so long, but it appears that his pitching days are numbered. So let's enjoy our last look at one of the college game's greatest two-way talents. 5. Who's your pick to win it all? McGee: In a field severely lacking in "been there, done that" it's hard to look at Florida, which pushed LSU to a third game in last year's championship series, and not think that's going to be worth something one year later. McDaniel: I think whoever wins Bracket 1 between Tennessee and Florida State will win the title. I'll lean Tennessee because I think it's just too deep at a time of year where that's crucial and it has Omaha experience. Rooney: The Vols lead the nation with an eye-popping 173 home runs. The first three hitters (Christian Moore, Blake Burke, Billy Amick) are the toughest stretch of any lineup in college baseball. But it's more than the power ... it's the program pedigree. The Vols are returning to Omaha for the third time in four seasons. The team that missed the College World Series (2022) won 57 games before losing in Game 3 of a super regional. Tennessee has earned the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament in two of the past three seasons. This program has been operating at the top of the sport for four years now. It's time for a crowning achievement. Burke: To this point the Vols have answered every challenge presented to them. I think the easiest prediction is that they will continue that in Omaha. If they do, the baggage of the No. 1 seed will be finally gone! Sleeper pick ... Virginia. Love the way this team plays offense, and after three trips in the past four years, I would not be surprised if this is the Hoos' time.
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Boston Celtics NBA Finals history: Matchups, MVPs, other stats

The Boston Celtics have a storied track record in the NBA Finals. Learn more about top matchups, players and other stats.

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The Boston Celtics are basketball royalty. In the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, they won their 18th championship and broke their long-standing tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most in league history.

Here's a look at the Celtics' previous NBA Finals appearances.

2024: Celtics defeat Mavericks 4-1 ▪︎ Head coach: Joe Mazzulla ▪︎ Jaylen Brown (BOS) named Finals MVP after averaging 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.

2022: Warriors defeat Celtics 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: Ime Udoka ▪︎ Stephen Curry (GS) named Finals MVP after averaging 31.2 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.

2010: Lakers defeat Celtics 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: Doc Rivers ▪︎ Kobe Bryant (LAL) named Finals MVP after averaging 28.6 points, 8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals.

2008: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: Doc Rivers ▪︎ Paul Pierce (BOS) named Finals MVP after averaging 21.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists.

1987: Lakers defeat Celtics 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: K.C. Jones ▪︎ Magic Johnson (LAL) named Finals MVP after averaging 26.2 points, 8 rebounds, 13 assists and 2.3 steals.

1986: Celtics defeat Rockets 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: K.C. Jones ▪︎ Larry Bird (BOS) named Finals MVP after averaging 24 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 2.7 steals.

1985: Lakers defeat Celtics 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: K.C. Jones ▪︎ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (LAL) named Finals MVP after averaging 25.7 points, 9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.5 blocks.

1984: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: K.C. Jones ▪︎ Larry Bird (BOS) named Finals MVP after averaging 27.4 points, 14 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.1 blocks.

1981: Celtics defeat Rockets 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: Bill Fitch ▪︎ Cedric Maxwell (BOS) named Finals MVP after averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

1976: Celtics defeat Suns 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: Tommy Heinsohn ▪︎ Jo Jo White (BOS) named Finals MVP after averaging 21.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals.

1974: Celtics defeat Bucks 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: Tommy Heinsohn ▪︎ John Havlicek (BOS) named Finals MVP after averaging 26.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.9 steals.

1969: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: Bill Russell ▪︎ Jerry West (LAL) named Finals MVP after averaging 37.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists.

1968: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: Bill Russell ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ John Havlicek (BOS): 27.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists

1966: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Bill Russell (BOS): 23.6 points, 24.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists

1965: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-1 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Sam Jones (BOS): 27.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists; Bill Russell (BOS): 17.8 points, 25 rebounds and 5.8 assists

1964: Celtics defeat Warriors 4-1 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Sam Jones (BOS): 21.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists; Bill Russell (BOS): 11.2 points, 25.2 rebounds and 5 assists

1963: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Sam Jones (BOS): 24.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists; Bill Russell (BOS): 20 points, 26 rebounds and 5.3 assists

1962: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Bill Russell (BOS): 22.9 points, 27 rebounds and 5.7 assists

1961: Celtics defeat Hawks 4-1 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Tommy Heinsohn (BOS): 22 points and 8.8 rebounds; Bob Cousy (BOS): 19.8 points, 5 rebounds and 10.6 assists; Bill Russell (BOS): 17.6 points, 28.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists

1960: Celtics defeat Hawks 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Tommy Heinsohn (BOS): 22.4 points and 9.7 rebounds; Bill Russell (BOS): 16.7 points, 24.9 rebounds; Bob Cousy (BOS): 14.4 points and 10 assists

1959: Celtics defeat Lakers 4-0 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Tommy Heinsohn (BOS): 24.3 points and 8.8 rebounds; Bob Cousy (BOS): 16.8 points, 8 rebounds and 12.8 assists; Bill Russell (BOS): 9.3 points, 29.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists

1958: Hawks defeat Celtics 4-2 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Bill Sharman (BOS): 21.3 points and 4.5 rebounds; Bob Cousy (BOS): 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists; Bill Russell (BOS): 14.5 points and 19.3 rebounds

1957: Celtics defeat Hawks 4-3 ▪︎ Head coach: Red Auerbach ▪︎ No Finals MVP ▪︎ Tommy Heinsohn (BOS): 24 points and 12.6 rebounds; Bob Cousy (BOS): 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 9.1 assists; Bill Russell (BOS): 13.3 points and 22.9 rebounds

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