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Starting 5, May 27: Mavericks close again, take 3-0 lead

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That ‘one win away from the Finals’ feeling.


THE LINEUP 🏀

What’s inside today’s edition? 

Mavs Up 3-0: Luka and Kyrie led the Mavs down the stretch to take a commanding lead

Closing Time: Dallas is +13 over Minnesota for the series, with +11 coming in the clutch

4 For Game 4: Four key things to watch for in tonight’s East Finals Game 4 in Indy (8 ET, ESPN)

Hitting His Stride: The further the Celtics go, the more electric Jayson Tatum’s getting

Clutch Dimes: Inspired by JT’s behind-the-back dime, check out more clutch Playoff assists


BUT FIRST … ⏰

Yesterday’s score & what to watch today.

Game 4 Of The East Finals (8 ET, ESPN): Can the Celtics complete the sweep on the road or will the Pacers keep their season alive and force Game 5 back in Boston?

Keep In Mind: No team has ever rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series in NBA Playoffs history. Last year, Boston became the fourth team to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0. Could we see a team (or both) make a run at history this year?


1. MAVS FEND OFF WOLVES, GO UP 3-0

Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic take over in the 4th quarter to put away Minnesota and give Dallas a 3-0 West Finals lead.

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving combined for 66 points – scoring or assisting on every point of Dallas’ game-ending 14-3 run to win Game 3 at home 116-107 and take a 3-0 lead in the West Finals. | RecapWatch the Final 4:32 Uncut

  • Kyrie & Luka Dominate 4th: The Mavs won the 4th quarter 29-20, with Kyrie (14 pts on 5-of-7 FG) and Luka (7 pts on 3-of-3 FG) combining to outscore the Wolves by themselves in the final frame
  • 🗣️ Luka Postgame: “We need one more”
  • Double 33s: Luka and Kyrie scored 33 points each – their third game this postseason in which they both scored 30+. No other Mavs duo has ever had more than one such Playoff game
  • Three Straight: Luka posted his third consecutive 30+ point game of the series and joined Khris Middleton (2021 East Semis) as the only players in NBA history to post 30+ pts, 5+ reb, 5+ ast, 5+ stl and 5+ 3s in a Playoff game

  • Clutch Assists: Kyrie and Luka did most of the clutch scoring, but each had a key assist – Kyrie to J. Washington for a corner 3 to put Dallas up for good with 3:38 left and Luka with the lob to Daniel Gafford for the dagger and-1 alley-oop with 35 seconds left
  • Stepping Up: After playing 21 minutes in Games 1 and 2, Gafford logged 29 in Game 3 after Dereck Lively II exited in the 2nd quarter with a neck injury. His block on Mike Conley’s layup, followed by the alley-oop from Luka (see it in slow-mo) sealed the game

Anthony Edwards – who vowed to be more aggressive in Game 3 after averaging 16.5 shots per game in Minnesota – led the Wolves with 26 points on 11-of-24 shooting, with nine boards and a Playoff career-high-tying nine assists.

Anthony Edwards provides one of his signature above-the-rim highlights, but Minnesota can’t capitalize with the comeback.

  • Ant Breaks The Internet: With 6:15 left in the 3rd quarter, Edwards lifted off and threw down a ferocious dunk to cut Dallas’ lead to four
  • It was part of a 15-3 run by Minnesota to erase a 10-point deficit in the span of four minutes and Ant was involved in every play
  • He scored 10 points (two layups, two stepbacks and the monster jam) and dropped two dimes (a Jaden McDaniels 3 and a Naz Reid layup to give the Wolves a two-point lead)

As much as Edwards’ dunk and the Wolves’ run changed the momentum of the game, the Mavs stabilized and tied the game entering the 4th quarter. Luka and Kyrie took over from there.


2. CLOSING TIME

Minnesota rallies from a double-digit deficit, only to see Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving again close them out in the final moments.

13 points.

That is all that separates the Mavs and Wolves over the first three games of the West Finals combined.

The Mavs have wins by 1, 3 and 9 points thanks to their execution in clutch moments.

In 14 minutes of clutch time – score within five points in the final five minutes – the Mavs are +11 in the series.

  • Dallas has scored 31 pts, shooting 61.1% from the floor (11-18), 62.5% (5-8) from 3 and 66.7% (4-6) FTs … while grabbing 11 reb and dishing 7 ast
  • Minnesota has put up 20 pts, shooting 35.3% (6-17) shooting, 20% (2-10) from 3 and 66.7% (6-9) from the line … while pulling down 8 reb with 3 ast

With two of the best closers in the game wearing “MAVS” across their chest, Dallas’ execution in clutch moments mimics what they do for the first 43 minutes.

Get the ball to Luka or Kyrie and let them create a shot for themselves – the first and sixth-ranked isolation scorers this season — or for their teammates, as evidenced by the two clutch assists in Game 3.

  • 🗣️ Luka: “That’s an amazing win. You know, we come down to the stretch and we execute.”
  • 🗣️ Kyrie on Luka: “He’s shown it over and over — whether he’d made ’em or missed ’em, he’s taking ’em. And that’s the confidence you need to have especially in those clutch situations.”
  • 🗣️ Mavs Coach Jason Kidd: “Coming down the stretch, make or miss, we got great looks with our quarterbacks being able to decide that. … The trust that they have in one another is really cool to watch.”

Dallas stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are superlative once again with 33 points apiece on 55% combined shooting in Game 3.

Kyrie and Luka had fellow NBA players singing their praises on social.

When comparing the star duos of each team, Dallas’ tandem has the edge in scoring, assists and shooting efficiency in clutch time.

  • Luka/Kyrie: 21 pts, 7-12 FG, 3-5 3P, 4-6 FT, 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 tov
  • Ant/KAT: 12 pts, 3-9 FG, 2-7 3P, 4-4 FT, 3 reb, 2 ast, 3 tov

Kyrie and Luka have taken 41.7% (5 out of 12) of clutch shots from 3-point range, compared to 77.8% (7 out of 9) from Ant/KAT in this series.


3. 4 THINGS TO WATCH IN GAME 4

1. Haliburton’s Status: After missing Game 3, Indiana’s All-Star point guard remains questionable for Game 4 as he manages a left hamstring injury – the same hamstring that kept him out for 10 games in January

  • Despite missing Haliburton, Indy had a chance to win Game 3 at home, but was unable to hold off Boston down the stretch

2. Clutch Time: Games 1 and 3 of this series have come down to clutch time, with the Celtics winning by five and three points, respectively.

  • Playoffs: Boston has played the fewest clutch games of the four conference finalists, but are 3-0 in games within five points in the final five minutes. Indiana is 2-4 in clutch games this postseason
  • Regular Season: The Celtics had the fourth-best clutch record (21-12, .636) while the Pacers ranked 17th (18-19, .486)

3. Closeout Jays: The Celtics are 2-0 in closeout games this postseason and their two stars have plenty of experience in these situations, winning 60+ percent of the time when they can clinch.

  • Tatum (12-8): 40 min, 24.7 pts, 8.6 reb, 5 ast, 49.1% FG, 43.1% 3P
  • Brown (14-9): 33.6 min, 18.1 pts, 5.6 reb, 2.3 ast, 47.5% FG, 30.6% 3P

4. Protecting Home: Prior to Game 3, the Pacers had not lost at home since March 18 – winning their final five of the regular season and first six of the Playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

  • The Pacers have lost back-to-back home games only two times all season: March 7 & 13, November 19 & 22

Check out four more things to watch from NBA.com’s John Schuhmann.


4. TATUM HITTING HIS STRIDE

Jayson Tatum opened the 2024 Playoffs with a streak he hadn’t posted all season, as the Celtics ran away with the East’s No. 1 seed: a seven-game stretch without a 30-point game.

Despite Tatum’s subdued scoring to start to the postseason, the Celtics dispatched the Heat in five games in the first round and were 1-1 with the Cavs in the second round.

  • Starting with Game 3 of the East Semis, Tatum found his offense as he posted the first of four games with 33+ points over Boston’s last six games
  • The Celtics are 6-0 in that stretch – winning the final three games of the East Semis to close out the Cavs and the first three games of the East Finals to take a commanding lead over the Pacers

The Numbers: While his points were down early, Tatum contributed in other ways – leading the team in rebounds (10) and assists (5.4).

  • First 7 Games:7 pts, 10.0 reb, 5.4 ast, 40.7% FG, 26.8% 3P
  • Last 6 Games: 0 pts, 10.3 reb, 6.2 ast, 47.4% FG, 31.3% 3P
  • All 13 Games: 26.0 pts, 10.2 reb, 5.8 ast, 44.4% FG, 29.2% 3P

Here’s the list of players averaging 25+ pts, 10+ reb and 5+ ast this postseason:

  • Nikola Jokic, the reigning Kia NBA MVP, in 12 games
  • Joel Embiid, the 2022-23 MVP, in six games
  • Tatum

Meanwhile, Tatum leads the entire Playoffs in plus/minus (+10.4).

  • Historic Company: Tatum is one of nine players to average 25/10/5 in the Playoffs, while playing at least 10 games. If he maintains these averages this would be Tatum’s third such postseason
  • He’s one of only five players to do it multiple times, joining Jokic (4x), Giannis Antetokounmpo (2x), LeBron James (2x) and Larry Bird (2x)

Tatum is coming off a monster game – posting a first-of-its-kind stat line of 36 pts, 10 reb, 8 ast, 5 3s, 2 blk, 1 stl, 0 turnovers – as Boston rallied to move one win from the Finals.


5. TATUM’S DIME AND MORE CLUTCH PLAYOFF ASSISTS 

The Situation: Celtics ball, down five with 1:16 remaining in the 4th. Jayson Tatum was on the move just outside the 3-point line on the left wing as he caught a pass from Derrick White.

With a step on defender Aaron Nesmith, Tatum drove into the lane forcing Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam to collapse down and help prevent a layup. That left Al Horford alone in the corner.

Tatum couldn’t see Horford as he whipped a behind-the-back pass in his direction for a wide-open look. Horford splashed the catch-and-shoot for his seventh and final 3 of the night.

  • 🗣️ Tatum: “We always talk about spacing, making sure we’re in the right spots. I trusted that he was going to be there, he trusted that I was going to make the right read. That was a hell of a shot that he made.”
  • 🗣️ Horford: “I don’t know how he got it there, he had to improvise, and he just continued to make time after time the right play, and that was an unbelievable play that he made. At that point for me, it was just take my time and knock it down.”

That was Tatum’s seventh of eight assists in Game 3 – his feed to Jrue Holiday for an and-1 put Boston up for good – and will go down as one of the best dimes of his career.

If you’ve been rockin’ with us at the Starting 5 for a while, you know that means it’s time to dig into the archives for more clutch Playoff dimes.

Check out a few of the best (and boldest) since 2020.

Jrue Holiday to Giannis Antetokounmpo | Game 5, Bucks-Suns, 2021 Finals

Jrue Holiday to Giannis Antetokounmpo | Game 5, Bucks-Suns, 2021 Finals

Gabe Vincent to Jimmy Butler | Game 5, Heat-Bucks, 2023 First Round

Gabe Vincent to Jimmy Butler | Game 5, Heat-Bucks, 2023 First Round

Kyle Lowry to OG Anunoby | Game 3, Raptors-Celtics, 2020 East Semis

Kyle Lowry to OG Anunoby | Game 3, Raptors-Celtics, 2020 East Semis

Austin Reaves to Rui Hachimura | Game 1, Lakers-Grizzlies, 2023 First Round

Austin Reaves to Rui Hachimura | Game 1, Lakers-Grizzlies, 2023 First Round

Trae Young to John Collins | Game 1, Hawks-Sixers, 2021 First Round

Trae Young to John Collins | Game 1, Hawks-Sixers, 2021 First Round

Jae Crowder to Deandre Ayton | Game 2, Suns-Clippers, 2021 West Finals

Jae Crowder to Deandre Ayton | Game 2, Suns-Clippers, 2021 West Finals

Ja Morant to Desmond Bane | Game 4, Grizzlies-Lakers, 2023 First Round

Ja Morant to Desmond Bane | Game 4, Grizzlies-Lakers, 2023 First Round

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