Tatum's Celtics prevail over Bucks in Eastern Conference blockbuster, Doncic dominates for Dallas

By Sports Desk December 25, 2022

The Boston Celtics shot the lights out during their 139-118 Christmas Day win against the Milwaukee Bucks in a crunch clash between two of the Eastern Conference heavyweights.

Boston scored at least 36 points in three of the four quarters, including a 77-point second half as they proved unstoppable offensively.

They were led by MVP candidate Jayson Tatum with a game-high 41 points on 14-of-22 shooting, adding seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

His running-mate Jaylen Brown was just as effective in his supporting role, scoring 29 on 11-of-19 shooting with five rebounds and four assists, while reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart set the table with eight assists and only four total field goal attempts.

As a team, the Celtics shot 58.8 per cent from the field (50-of-85) and 48.7 per cent from long range (19-of-39) in a blistering performance.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was not at his best for the Bucks, shooting nine-of-22 from the field for his 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Jrue Holiday was more effective for his 23 points (eight-of-14), seven assists and six rebounds.

A win for the Bucks would have seen them overtake the Celtics for the top seed in the East, but they instead fell to 22-11 and are now one-and-a-half games behind Boston at 24-10.

Doncic, Mavs catch fire in the third

The Dallas Mavericks were a completely different team after half-time in their 124-115 home win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Trailing 54-43 at the long break, the Mavericks came out of the locker room and put up 51 points in the third period, setting a new record for the most points scored in a quarter on Christmas Day. They won that quarter by 30 points, racing to the lead before the duo of Luka Doncic and Christian Wood put the game to bed.

Doncic, who was being consistently double-teamed all night and being forced to give off early passes, still worked his way to 32 points (nine-of-16 shooting), nine rebounds and nine assists, while Wood added 30 points (12-of-17), eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks.

LeBron James was the lone bright spot for the Lakers, scoring a game-high 38 points (13-of-23) as his side lost their fourth in a row to fall to 13-20.

Warriors remain the league's best home team

There is no place like home for the Golden State Warriors this season, improving their league-best record in their own stadium to 13-2 with a 123-109 victory over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

The Warriors are still below .500 overall at 16-18 thanks to their 3-15 road record, but once again shot the ball beautifully in front of the Chase Center crowd.

Behind 32 points from Jordan Poole and 24 from Klay Thompson, Golden State shot 18-of-44 from three-point range (40.9 per cent). It was a throwback game for Draymond Green as well, delivering a gritty double-double with 13 rebounds and 13 assists to go with his two points.

Ja Morant was the only Grizzlies player to shine under the bright lights, scoring a game-high 36 points on 15-of-29 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds on his Christmas Day debut.

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    Brown had 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Celtics took a 3-0 lead in the series, holding off a late Dallas push to claim a 106-99 win.

    They could now capture a record-breaking 18th NBA crown on Friday, when they are again on the road for Game 4 at American Airlines Center.

    The Celtics were beaten NBA finalists against the Golden State Warriors two years ago and have also lost two Eastern Conference finals series in the last five seasons.

    Brown thinks experiencing those near misses has made them stronger, saying: "Experience is the best teacher. 

    "All year long we've been hearing about the Celtics in the past, for the last six to eight months, all we've been hearing is all the different shortcomings we've had in the past.

    "This is a new team, you know what I mean? We've learned from those experiences. In these moments, you can see that we learned from it. We stepped up to the plate, and we found a way to win."

    None of the previous 156 teams to face a 3-0 deficit have rallied to win an NBA playoff series, in any round.

    Dallas gave themselves a chance of making a series of it when a 22-2 spurt pulled them within one point with three minutes and 37 seconds left.

    However, a Brown putback was followed by a Derrick White 3-pointer and a Tatum dunk as the Celtics rediscovered their composure to pull clear once more.

    Tatum is refusing to take his eye off the ball despite Boston now having four chances to clinch the title, saying: "Last year, when we were down 0-3 in the conference finals, we really felt like we were going to come back.

    "We almost did. You know, we were my sprained ankle away from having a real shot, so we are not relaxing or anything like that. 

    "You know, we're not even focusing on winning or Friday or whatever. However long it takes, that's our motto. That's what it's going to take, and nobody is trying to relax at all."

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    Brown finished with eight rebounds and eight assists and Derrick White had 16 points as Boston extended its franchise record with a 10th consecutive playoff win and moved to 7-0 on the road this postseason.

    The Celtics can wrap up the series and win their 18th title to break a tie with the Lakers for most NBA championships with a victory Friday night in Dallas.

    None of the previous 156 teams to face a 3-0 deficit has rallied to win an NBA playoff series.

    Kristaps Porzingis was ruled out about two hours before the game because of a rare tendon injury in his lower left leg sustained in Game 2. But the Celtics improved to 10-1 in these playoffs without the 7-foot-2 Latvian.

    Kyrie Irving scored 35 points for Dallas and Luka Dončić added 27 before he fouled out with 4:12 remaining.

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    Brown made a layup and White hit a 3-pointer before Irving sank a pair of free throws. Tatum dunked and Brown drilled a long jumper sandwiched around Dereck Lively II’s dunk to put Boston up 102-98.

    PJ Washington and Irving both missed 3s and Tatum’s two free throws with 15 seconds left sealed the win.

    Irving’s personal losing streak against the Celtics – his former team – reached 13 games.

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    The Celtics announced Tuesday that Porzingis suffered a torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon.

    The team described the injury as being rare, and said it is unrelated to a right calf strain that side-lined Porzingis for 10 games earlier in the play-offs.

    The injury occurred with 3:27 to play in the third quarter of Sunday's 105-98 win over the Mavericks, which gave Boston a 2-0 lead.

    Porzingis helped spark the Celtics in Thursday's 107-89 win in Game 1, tallying 11 points and two blocks in the first quarter in his first game since April 29.

    He finished with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and six rebounds before recording 12 points and four boards in Game 2.

    Porzingis spent 2 1/2 seasons with the Mavericks from 2019-22, and with this latest injury, still hasn't played a game in Dallas since being traded to the Washington Wizards in February 2022.

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