Jrue Holiday, Celtics take 2-0 NBA Finals lead over Mavs

League: NBA

Posted on: 10 Jun, 2024 at 04:50 AM

Credit: USA TODAY Sports Images

BOSTON -- Although he considers himself part of the supporting cast, Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday looked like a star on Sunday night.

Holiday racked up team highs in points with 26 and rebounds with 11, leading Boston to a 105-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

The Celtics now lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, with Game 3 set for Wednesday in Dallas.

"I'm a utility guy. I'll do whatever. I'm here to win," said Holiday, who went 11-for-14 from the field. "I feel like they brought me here to win, and I'll do my best to do that. But at the end of the day, this is (Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown's) team.

"And I know it's probably just as much my team as theirs, but ... the pressure that they have on themselves to execute and to be great is a little bit different than my pressure."

Brown and Tatum were still very much in the picture on Sunday. Brown went for 21 points while Tatum collected 18 to go along with nine boards and 12 assists. However, both knew the series very well may have been tied 1-1 had it not been for Holiday.

"Tonight, they wanted to emphasize loading up, making us make the right reads over and over again, and Jrue had a lot of opportunities tonight and he took advantage," Brown said. "He's just a hell of a player, hell of a person, great teammate.

"I credit the victory to him tonight. He played well."

Derrick White also had 18 points for Boston, while Kristaps Porzingis chipped in 12 off the bench. White's biggest play of the night came on the defensive end, as he blocked P.J. Washington with 50.5 seconds left in the game. Had Washington scored, the Mavericks would have pulled within 103-100.

"That was sick," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of White sending back Washington's dunk attempt.

Luka Doncic supplied 32 points, 11 boards, 11 assists and four steals for Dallas, which still managed to outshoot Boston 47.5 percent to 45.2 percent overall. Washington chipped in 17 points, Kyrie Irving had 16 and Daniel Gafford went for 13.

Irving finds himself in familiar territory.

Back in 2016, Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers were down 2-0 after losing road games to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, but they rallied to win in seven games.

"Now I'm just really leaning in on what I've experienced, what I've learned and some of the lessons I've been able to make sense of in how to come back in this series," Irving said. "It is going to be a possession-by-possession thing, and it is going to be the hardest thing that we've ever done.

"So I think we've got a great feel, a great experience here in Boston of what the Finals is like for our group. Now we go home and shake off the cobwebs a bit and prepare for another fight."

The Mavericks tried to mount a late rally after 3-pointers from Holiday and White on back-to-back possessions put Boston ahead 103-89 with 3:34 left in the game.

Derrick Jones Jr. scored four straight points as part of a 9-0 spurt that ended with a three-point play from Doncic, but White's block and Brown's layup with 29.8 seconds to go dashed any hope Dallas had left.

Dereck Lively II threw home a dunk to get the Mavericks within 63-61 with 7:30 left in the third quarter, but the Celtics then started to pull away. Boston scored 17 of the next 23 points, with Brown's trey making it 80-67 with 2:04 remaining in the period.

Dallas cut its deficit to six before quarter's end, but Payton Pritchard nailed a 34-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Boston into the fourth with an 83-74 cushion.

Doncic took over in the first quarter, scoring 13 points to lift Dallas to a 28-25 lead. The Celtics stayed close by going 10-for-10 from the free-throw line through the first 12 minutes.

After Doncic canned a fadeaway with 10:08 left in the second quarter to push the Mavericks' advantage to 35-29, Boston put together an 11-2 run to go up 40-37.

Neither team led by more than three until Holiday knocked down a triple with 37.1 seconds remaining in the first half to give Boston a five-point edge. Gafford answered with a dunk, forcing the Celtics to settle for a 54-51 lead at the break.

"We are not down. We're positive. This is a group that believes," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. "We didn't get an opportunity to get a split or win two here on the road. Now Boston held serve. Now we've got to go home and hold serve."

--Nick Galle, Field Level Media