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Dallas dominates Boston, keeps season alive

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DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks came close to a victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. They got a little closer in Game 3. In Game 4, the Mavericks broke through for their first victory of the series against the Boston Celtics.

Playing their best two-way basketball of the series, especially in the first half, the Mavs obliterated Boston 122-84 in Game 4 Friday. It was the third-largest margin of victory in Finals history.

Mavs star Luka Doncic rebounded from a substandard Game 3 and pointed criticism of his game, scoring 29 points (25 in the first half), delivering five assists, collecting five rebounds and registering three steals. Kyrie Irving added 21 points and six assists.

Dallas’ reserves outscored Boston’s 54-40. Dereck Lively II had 11 points and 12 rebounds, Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 15 points and Dante Exum had 10 off the bench for the Mavs.

Dallas used a 40-14 run over the first and second quarters for a 50-25 lead. It took a 61-35 lead into halftime and then extended its advantage to 88-52 with 3:18 left in the third quarter and led 115-67 for the largest lead of the series (13-point margin previously).

The Mavs avoided a sweep, but they still have a steep climb. No team down 3-0 in 156 instances has won a series and just four teams in that circumstance have forced a Game 7 in NBA history – last season Boston pushed the Eastern Conference finals to seven games after losing the first three to Miami but lost Game 7.

“The series numbers, I think we all understand what that is,” Kidd said of the series deficit and historical context. “So, it’s not so much that we are going to harp on that but understanding that we’ve got to play 48 minutes of our best basketball (Friday), and that’s what we’re talking about.”

Tatum (15 points) and Brown (10 points) were the only Celtics to make more than one shot in the first half, and the Celtics scored a season-low for points in a half (35). Boston shot 36.3% from the field and 34.1% on 3-pointers.

It was Boston’s first playoff loss since May 9, ending their 10-game winning streak. It was also their lowest-scoring game and worst margin of defeat this season.

The Celtics have a chance to close out the series at home in Game 5 Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC). They are trying to win their first championship since 2008 and 18th overall, which would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for most in NBA history.

USA TODAY Sports’ updates, highlights and analysis of Game 4 of the NBA Finals:

When is Game 5 of the NBA Finals?

Put the brooms away. The Dallas Mavericks avoided a sweep and forced a Game 5. The Boston Celtics will have a chance to close out the series and claim the NBA title on their home court Monday as the series shifts back to TD Garden. Game 5 will be broadcast on ABC at 8:30 p.m. ET. — Cydney Henderson

What is the biggest loss in NBA Finals history?

The Mavericks are flirting with the largest margin of victory in NBA Finals history. The Celtics trail the Mavericks 119-77 with 2:54 remaining in Game 4, a 42-point deficit. 

Here’s the biggest losses in NBA Finals history: 

  • 42: Chicago Bulls 96, Utah Jazz 54 (June 7, 1998)
  • 39: Boston Celtics 131, L.A. Lakers 92 (June 17, 2008)
  • 36: San Antonio Spurs 113, Miami Heat 77 (June 11, 2013)

Cydney Henderson

Dereck Lively II showed up in the first elimination game of his NBA career. He registered a double-double off the bench, scoring 11 points (4-of-5 FG, 1-of-1 3PT, 2-of-4 FT), 12 rebounds (seven offensive) and one steal in 22 minutes. And his night is done early, as of now. Lively exited the game with 1:29 remaining in the third quarter with the Mavericks up 92-57.

Friday marked back-to-back double-doubles for Lively after he recorded 11 points and 13 rebounds in Dallas’ Game 3 loss. Lively joins Magic Johnson as the only 20-year-olds with multiple career double-doubles in the NBA Finals, according to Stat Mamba. — Cydney Henderson

DALLAS — Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are a combined 1-for-14 on 3-pointers, but it hasn’t been a detriment to Dallas’ scoring. Doncic was 0-for-8 from that distance through three quarters. However, they have been superb inside the 3-point line, going 21-for-30 on 2-point attempts.

Doncic has 29 points and Irving 21, and it doesn’t look like they will make an appearance in the fourth quarter. — Jeff Zillgitt

What’s the fewest points scored by one team in the NBA Finals?

The Boston Celtics are on the verge of turning in one of the lowest scoring performances in NBA Finals history. The Celtics are trailing the Mavericks 92-60 heading into the fourth quarter of Game 4, with all their starters on the bench. 

Here’s the fewest points scored in NBA Finals history: 

  • June 7, 1998: Jazz 54, Bulls 98
  • June 18, 1999: Knicks 67, Spurs 80
  • June 15, 2010: Celtics 67, Lakers 89
  • June 10, 2004: Lakers 68, Pistons 88

Boston’s season low is 91 points; its playoff low is 94.

Cydney Henderson and Jeff Zillgitt

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks continued their destruction of the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Dallas owned a 92-60 lead after three quarters and built their biggest lead of the series at 90-52 with 2:39 left in the third quarter. Twenty seconds earlier, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla removed his starters and emptied his bench — a sign the Celtics already are looking ahead to Game 5.

Mavs guard Luka Doncic has 29 points, five assists and five rebounds and backcourt partner Kyrie Irving has 21 points, six assists and four rebounds. Dereck Lively II has 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Jayson Tatum scored 15 points, and Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday each have 10. — Jeff Zillgitt

DALLAS — Boston forward Jayson Tatum picked up his fourth foul with 10:16 left in the third quarter, and Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla subbed him with Sam Hauser with Dallas leading 67-38. Boston’s Jaylen Brown and Al Horford each have three fouls. — Jeff Zillgitt

Jason Kidd: ‘We are going to Boston’ 

Ahead of Game 4, Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told his team during his pregame speech: “I hope you guys all packed.”

Kidd hyped up his team, letting the Mavericks know that losing at home is not an option. Now the Mavericks —  leading 61-35, the largest halftime lead in any NBA Finals game —  are 24 minutes from forcing a Game 5 in Boston. No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Finals, but Kidd said Dallas can be the first. 

“We’ve got to believe, ‘Why not us?’ We are going to Boston tomorrow,” Kidd said. — Cydney Henderson

DALLAS — Playing their best half of basketball in the NBA Finals against the Celtics, the Mavericks built their biggest lead of the series and took a 61-35 advantage into halftime.

From 6:14 of the first quarter to 5:16 of the second quarter, Dallas outscored Boston 40-14 for a 50-25 advantage.

Mavs star guards Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving provided a bulk of the offense but they had assistance from the bench and the Mavs held Boston to a season-low for points in any half. Dallas’ biggest lead of the series before Game 4 was 13.

Doncic had 25 points, four assists and three rebounds, and Irving had 11 points, three assists and three rebounds in the first half. Dereck Lively II contributed six points and nine rebounds, including an electrifying 3-pointer (the first of his career) and a dunk on consecutive possessions in the first quarter.

Dante Exum and Maxi Kleber each had five points off the bench for the Mavs, whose reserves outscored Boston’s 19-6.

Jayson Tatum scored 15 points and Jaylen Brown had eight points for the Celtics, who shot 29.7% from the field and 26.3% on 3s in the two quarters.

The Mavs are trying to avoid becoming the 10th team to lose the Finals in a sweep. It last happened in 2018 when Golden State beat Cleveland. — Jeff Zillgitt

Jaylen Brown in foul trouble early 

The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown headed to the bench with 2:11 remaining in the first half after picking up his third foul. To make matters worse, Brown fouled Josh Green on a 3-point attempt. Brown closed out on Green and didn’t allow room for him to land. Green converted one of the three free throws as Dallas went up 54-30. Brown has eight points (3-of-10 FG; 1-of-5 3PT; 1-of-2 FT) in 19 minutes. — Cydney Henderson

Watch: Luka Doncic hits the And-1 after crazy Kyrie Irving pass

Luka Doncic faced criticism after Game 3, but he’s come out with a different intensity for Game 4. Doncic was stripped by Boston’s Jrue Holiday while driving to the basket, but Doncic dove on the floor for the loose ball and tapped it in the corner to Kyrie Irving. Doncic didn’t quit on the play. He got up and received a pass from Irving and then went up for the lay-up. Doncic was fouled on the play and converted the And-1. Dallas went up 43-25 with 7:03 remaining in the second quarter. 

The Mavericks pushed their lead to 20 points, their largest of the game, on a 17-foot step-back jumper from Doncic to go up 45-25. That forced Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla to call a timeout. — Cydney Henderson

Dirk Nowitzki sitting courtside in Dallas 

Dirk Nowitzki is in the building and he likes what he sees so far. Nowitzki was seen clapping courtside at American Airlines Center after the Mavericks took a 34-21 lead over the Celtics after the first quarter. Nowitzki led the Mavericks to its first and only NBA title, in 2011. Jason Kidd, the head coach of the Mavericks, was also on the championship team that defeated the Heat that year. — Cydney Henderson

DALLAS — Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving scored Dallas’ first 10 points, Dereck Lively II provided a boost off the bench and the Mavericks owned a 34-21 lead after the first quarter.

Doncic had 13 points and three rebounds in the quarter, and Lively made a 3-pointer and a dunk on consecutive possessions. The 3-pointer was the third attempt and first make of Lively’s rookie career. He had five points and five rebounds in the quarter, and Irving scored nine points.

Dallas shot 58.3% from the field and made 4-for-7 on 3s.

Jayson Tatum scored 11 points for the Celtics, who were 8-for-21 from the field and 2-for-9 on 3-pointers. — Jeff Zillgitt

Watch: Dereck Lively II makes first three of his career 

Dereck Lively II only attempted two 3-pointers his entire rookie season. But with the Mavericks trailing the Celtics 3-0 in the NBA Finals, Dallas is pulling out all the stops. Lively came off the bench early in the first quarter and added instant impact. He knocked down a three, the first of his NBA career, to allow Dallas to retake the lead, 13-11. He slammed down an alley-oop dunk from Kyrie Irving in the Mavericks’ next possession as they went up 15-11. Lively has five points in seven minutes of play. — Cydney Henderson

Celtics, Mavericks duos firing early

The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks’ dynamic duos are coming out of the gate swinging. The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have scored all the points of Game 4 so far nearly six minutes into the first quarter. The Mavericks are up by one, 10-9 with 6:44 remaining. 

Tatum has five points and Brown has four. 

Doncic has six points so far, but is struggling early from beyond the arc. He’s 0-of-2 from three. Irving has four points. — Cydney Henderson

What time is NBA Finals Game 4?

Tip is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET from the American Airlines Arena in Dallas.

How to watch NBA Finals Game 4

ABC will broadcast every game of the 2024 NBA Finals.

How to stream NBA Finals Game 4

Each game of the 2024 NBA Finals can be streamed on ESPN+ or on Fubo.

Joel Embiid on Olympics, Celtics: ‘I hate Boston’

Joel Embiid made an appearance on the NBA Finals pre-game broadcast and he’s not happy to be on the sidelines. 

“I can’t stand them. I hate Boston,” Embiid said when asked how it feels to see the Celtics one game from the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. “Great city, great fans, they’ve obviously they got some great players … but the whole East was kind of hurt, myself included.” 

Although Embiid’s NBA season is over, his summer is booked after he was named to the 2024 U.S. men’s national basketball team roster. Embiid missed a portion of this season after having surgery on his left knee in April, but he said he’s hopeful to play in Paris. 

“I’m doing great … It’s going to be big for me because I’ve been dreaming about (the Olympics) since I was a kid. I’m excited just to be part of the experience,” Embiid said. “I feel pretty good. I’m excited to get back and go to work.”

When asked if he will be able to go, he said, “I want to go but we’ll see.” — Cydney Henderson

Luka Doncic exchanges jerseys with soccer legend

Game 4 of the NBA Finals hasn’t started yet, but Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic has already done a jersey exchange. 

Soccer legend Sergio Ramos and his son visited Doncic ahead of Friday’s pivotal game as the Mavericks look to avoid a sweep by the Boston Celtics. Ramos gifted several of his Real Madrid jerseys to Doncic, in addition to red cleats. Ramos played soccer for Real Madrid from 2005-2021, while Doncic played basketball for Real Madrid from 2015-2018. — Cydney Henderson

There are no changes to either starting lineup for Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

  • Jaylen Brown
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Al Horford
  • Derrick White
  • Jrue Holiday

There are no changes to either starting lineup for Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

  • Derrick Jones Jr.
  • P.J. Washington
  • Daniel Gafford
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Luka Doncic

DALLAS – Following the criticism of Mavs star Luka Doncic, especially his defense and officiating complaints, coach Jason Kidd defended his All-NBA guard before Game 4 Friday.

“What I’m more disappointed in is that we are at the highest stage where we have one of the best players in the world playing the game the right way but we want to criticize some of the things that he does not do well,” Kidd said, adding, “sometimes it’s just unfair or unwarranted to say those things. No one in this room is perfect, right. So, like, give my man a break. Let him play the game. Because we are all here to watch him play, right, and so let’s just enjoy it. He’s 25 years old. He will be better.

“Hopefully he’s better tonight.” — Jeff Zillgitt

DALLAS – Luka Doncic required another pain-killing shot for his bruised chest before Game 4, the Mavericks star guard told ESPN, and the Mavs said Doncic is available to play Friday. — Jeff Zillgitt

What is Kristaps Porzingis’ injury? 

Porzingis was diagnosed with a “torn medial retinaculum allowing disclocation of the posterior tibialis tendon” in his left leg. The team called this a “rare injury.” 

Is Kristaps Porzingis playing for Celtics in NBA Finals? 

Kristaps Porzingis played during Game 1 of the NBA Finals and had 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Before Game 3, Porzingis was diagnosed with a “rare” injury to his left leg, leading the Celtics to list him as “day-to-day.”  

Porzingis did not play in Game 3. He is available for Game 4, according to coach Joe Mazzulla. 

Scott Foster leads officiating crew for Game 4 

The officiating crew for Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks boasts major experience. Scott Foster will serve as the crew chief in the 25th Finals game of his career, which marks the most among all active officials. The referee crew will be rounded out by David Guthrie, in his 11th Finals game, and James Williams, in his fifth Finals game. Ben Taylor will serve as the alternate. – Cydney Henderson

Has any team come back from down 3-0 in the NBA Finals? 

For Mavericks fans searching for hope, there may not be much left: No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Finals.  

In fact, a team that is down 3-0 in the Finals has lost all 156 times. 

NBA Finals schedule 

  • Game 1: Celtics 107, Mavericks 89 (Boston leads 1-0) 
  • Game 2: Celtics 105, Mavericks 98 (Boston leads 2-0) 
  • Game 3: Celtics 106, Mavericks 99 (Boston leads 3-0) 
  • Game 4: Dallas 122, Boston 84 (Boston leads 3-1)
  • Monday, June 17: Game 5 at Boston, 8:30 p.m. on ABC 
  • *Thursday, June 20: Game 6 at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. on ABC 
  • *Sunday, June 23: Game 7 at Boston, 8 p.m. on ABC 
  • * – if necessary

NBA Finals odds 

According to BetMGM, the Celtics are –10000 to win the NBA championship against the Mavericks. Dallas is +2000. 

NBA Finals MVP odds 

According to BetMGM: 

  • Jayson Tatum, Celtics: +275 
  • Jaylen Brown, Celtics: -350 
  • Luka Dončić, Mavericks: +3000 
  • Jrue Holiday, Celtics: +6600 

NBA Finals predictions 

Here are USA TODAY Sports’ NBA experts’ picks and predictions for the 2024 NBA Finals: 

  • Scooby Axson: Celtics in 6 
  • Cydney Henderson: Mavericks in 6 
  • Lindsay Schnell: Mavericks in 7 
  • Jeff Zillgitt: Celtics in 6 

NBA Finals Game 4 predictions 

Mike Freeman, USA TODAY: Mavericks 101, Celtics 98

Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY: Mavericks 106, Celtics 104

Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY: Mavericks 106, Celtics 97

Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY: Celtics 110, Mavs 99

(Series predictions from USA TODAY staffers)

DALLAS – Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum embraced at halfcourt.

The Boston Celtics had just extinguished a massive Dallas comeback and defeated the Mavericks 106-99 Wednesday for a 3-0 series lead in the NBA Finals.

Brown and Tatum, the Celtics’ two stars, were not celebrating.

However, they understood the significance of the moment. Not only are the Celtics one victory from their first championship since 2008, Brown and Tatum – the Celtics’ foundational players who were drafted in 2016 and 2017, respectively – are on the verge of winning their first championship and quieting doubters who didn’t believe their partnership could produce a title.

“Showing the emotions of the game,” Tatum explained. “Two guys that was excited (and) tired after the game. We’re not necessarily saying like ‘one more’ or anything like that. We are just saying, ‘however long it takes.’ Nobody is relaxed. Nobody is satisfied.

“Just at that moment, told him I was proud of him and he said the same thing. We’ve got to keep fighting. We can’t relax. And that was basically the conversation.”

Said Brown: “I’m just trying to stay in the moment. It feels great to be up 3-0 in the series but the job is not done.”

Read Jeff Zillgitt’s complete column.

DALLAS – Luka Doncic fouled out of the Game 3 in the NBA Finals.

Here’s the problem: Doncic can’t foul out. Not in the Finals. Not with the game close late in the fourth quarter that Dallas ended up losing 106-99.

The Dallas Mavericks star is too valuable, too indispensable.

Doncic missed the final 4:12 of the fourth quarter after picking up his sixth and disqualifying foul with the Boston Celtics up 93-90. He picked up his fifth foul 26 seconds earlier and objected to the idea of getting six fouls. “You know, six fouls in the NBA Finals, basically I’m like, ‘C’mon, man. Better than that,’ ” he said.

Read Jeff Zillgitt’s story.

Joe Mazzulla, Jason Kidd make NBA Finals history 

The year was 1975. It wouldn’t be long before Apple computer was founded. A show called “Saturday Night Live” premiered on NBC. There was Disco, 8-track players and bell-bottom pants. 

Also, that year the NBA Finals featured two Black head coaches in Golden State’s Al Attles and Washington’s K.C. Jones. It wasn’t just the first time two Black head coaches faced off in the Finals, it was also the first major sports championship in U.S. history featuring two Black head coaches. 

We fast-forward to now (minus the bell-bottoms). There are again two Black head coaches in the NBA Finals. 

Read Mike Freeman’s column. 

Mark Cuban and Mavericks sale 

The Adelson and Dumont families reached a binding agreement to purchase a majority ownership of the Dallas Mavericks from owner Mark Cuban back in November. 

Miriam Adelson, the widow of Las Vegas Sands Corp. founder Sheldon Adelson, and her family said in an SEC filing it is selling $2 billion of LVS stock and “they currently intend to use the net proceeds from this offering, along with additional cash on hand, to fund the purchase of a majority interest in a professional sports franchise pursuant to a binding purchase agreement, subject to customary league approvals.” 

Cuban has been one of the NBA’s most prominent owners in the past two decades and one of the most fined, racking up nearly $4 million in fines — and that doesn’t include $10 million Cuban donated to women’s groups following an investigation into a toxic work environment, including sexual harassment and workplace misconduct, within the Mavericks’ organization. — Jeff Zillgitt 

Celtics championships 

Boston’s 17 NBA championships are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for most in league history. The Celtics’ last NBA Finals win came in 2008 when Doc Rivers’ team, led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, knocked off the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers in six games. The Celtics lost in the NBA Finals in 2010 (to same Lakers in seven games) and 2022 (to Golden State Warriors in six games). 

Mavericks championships 

Dallas has one NBA title to its name, coming in 2011 when Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd (the Mavericks’ current coach) beat the Miami Heat in six games. It was Miami’s first season as the Heatles, a nickname given due to their worldwide appeal with stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up. The Mavericks went to the NBA Finals only one other time, losing in 2006 to a Heat team that had Wade, but also Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Terry and Antoine Walker. 

Celtics playoff schedule 

  • Earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference 
  • Eastern Conference first round: Beat No. 8 Miami Heat in five games 
  • Eastern Conference semifinals: Beat No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers in five games 
  • Eastern Conference finals: Beat No. 6 Indiana Pacers in four games 

Mavericks playoff schedule 

  • Earned the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference 
  • Western Conference first round: Beat No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers in six games 
  • Western Conference semifinals: Beat No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder in six games 
  • Western Conference finals: Beat No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves in five games 

Celtics vs. Mavericks regular-season series 

The Celtics went 2-0 against the Mavericks during the regular season.  

Jayson Tatum scored 39 points with 11 rebounds in Boston’s 119-110 victory in Dallas on Jan. 22. 

Tatum led the way again with 32 points and eight rebounds on March 1, when Boston won 138-110. 

Celtics coaching staff 

  • Head coach: Joe Mazzulla 
  • Assistant coach: Charles Lee 
  • Assistant coach: Samuel Cassell 
  • Assistant coach: Tony Dobbins 
  • Assistant coach: Amile Jefferson 
  • Assistant coach: DJ MacLeay 
  • Assistant coach: Matthew Reynolds 
  • Senior consultant: Jeff Van Gundy 

Mavericks coaching staff 

  • Head coach: Jason Kidd 
  • Assistant coach: Darrell Armstrong 
  • Assistant coach: Sean Sweeney 
  • Assistant coach: Marko Milic 
  • Assistant coach: Jared Dudley 
  • Assistant coach: Keith Vaney 
  • Assistant coach: Josh Broghamer 
  • Assistant coach: Eric Hughes 
  • Assistant coach: Alex Jensen 
  • Head of player culture: God Shammgod 

Who won the NBA Finals in 2023? 

The Denver Nuggets won last year’s NBA Finals in five games against the Miami Heat. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named the MVP of the series after averaging 30.2 points, 14.0 rebounds and 7.2 assists. 

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