NBA Finals: Jrue Holiday takes center stage as Celtics overcome late Mavericks rally to take 2-0 series lead

The Dallas Mavericks bounced back from their Game 1 loss on Sunday night with a big game from Luka Doncic and improved efforts from the field.

It doesn’t matter.

The Boston Celtics overcame poor shooting from 3 and from Jayson Tatum to cruise to a 105-98 win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Jrue Holiday led Boston’s offense with one of his best games of the season. The Celtics now hold a 2-0 series lead as the series is set to move to Dallas for Game 3. According to ESPN, teams that go 2-0 in the Finals have a 31-5 record (86.1%).

Jayson Tatum, left, relinquishes control of the Celtics to Jrue Holiday in the Celtics' Game 2 win on Sunday.  (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Jayson Tatum, left, relinquishes control of the Celtics offense to Jrue Holiday in the Celtics’ Game 2 win on Sunday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Boston won Game 1 after opening the game with a 58-29 lead in the second quarter and not allowing Dallas to take the lead from there. Dallas looked like the stronger team early Sunday as Doncic took over with a 23-point shot in the first half. After scoring 12 points in Game 1, Kyrie Irving scored 10 in the first half as Boston had few answers for Dallas’ elite backcourt duo.

But the Celtics still led 54-51 at halftime while shooting 3 of 15 from long range. They then focused on defense to open the third quarter and take control of the game. Dallas turnovers — many by Dončić — were repeatedly converted into points on the other end.

The Celtics increased their lead to 83-74 in the third quarter, which was capped by a miraculous three-pointer from backup point guard Payton Pritchard.

By the fourth quarter, Boston’s defense was in control, and its three-point shooting returned to form. A three-pointer from Derrick White increased the Celtics’ lead to 103-89 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

But Dallas isn’t finished yet. The Mavericks led 9-0, and the Celtics narrowed the gap to 103-98 with one minute and 15 seconds left. As time approached the final minute, Dallas threatened to reduce the game to one possession. Derek White had other ideas.

Derrick Jones Jr. blocked a layup from Tatum at the rim to spark fast breaks for Dallas. Irving then found P.J. Washington with a bounce pass for what looked like a layup to cut Boston’s lead to 3. But White — the team’s all-defensive pick along with Holiday — chased the play and blocked Washington from behind.

The block hampered the Mavericks’ drive and nearly ended the game. Boston scored at the other end, and the Mavericks did not score again.

While Tatum struggled from the field, Holiday took over the offense. The former All-Star and reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks is an elite player in the Celtics offense and can count on any of their starters and now sixth man Kristaps Porzinis to take over on any given night. It was Holiday’s turn Sunday in his best offensive game of the season.

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Holiday sparked the Celtics’ offense in the first half, scoring 17 points. He finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds along with three assists, one steal and one block. He shot 11-of-14 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3.

Jaylen Brown posted another strong effort after helping lead the Celtics to a Game 1 win. He scored 21 points, seven assists and three steals while shooting 8 of 15 from the field. Tatum overcame his poor shooting night (6-of-22, 1-of-7 from 3) with an all-around effort that showcased his skills as a playmaker. He finished the game with 18 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds.

On a night in which Boston shot 10-of-39 from 3, White was a bright spot from long range in a 4-of-10 effort. He finished with 18 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks, including a game-high shutout in the final minute.

Dončić calmed down after a 23-point first half as Boston’s defense dominated. He finished the game by scoring 32 points, 11 assists, and a triple-double of 11 rebounds. He recorded four steals and shot 12 of 21 from the field and 4 of 9 from 3. But his eight turnovers helped Boston take control of the game.

Irving struggled in the second half after shooting 5 of 10 before the end of the first half. He finished with 16 points and six assists while shooting 7-of-18 from the field. He missed all three of his three-point attempts and has yet to make a 3-pointer in the series after going 0-for-5 in Game 1.

Free throws were costly for Dallas again. The Mavericks left points at the goal line on 16 of 24 attempts, while the Celtics scored on 19 of 20 attempts.

Wednesday’s third game will provide Dallas with home comforts that could help with Irving’s shooting woes. But the Mavericks face an uphill climb with NBA history working against them as they look to turn this series into a series.

Live coverage has ended44 updates

  • The final score is Boston 105, Dallas 98, giving the Celtics a 2-0 lead.

  • Huge block from Derrick White to keep Boston ahead.

  • Derrick White finally calls

    Derrick White has struggled with his shooting throughout these playoffs, but he hit four huge 3-pointers on a night when no other Boston player connected on more than two from long range. After a disappointing performance from Dallas, the Celtics became clear, leading 103-89 with 3:32 minutes left in the game.

  • Kristaps Porzingis could be a story moving forward

    Kristaps Porzingis, playing his second game since missing more than a month with a right soleus strain, didn’t look the same in the second half. He briefly retreated to the locker room before returning to the bench. When he returned to the game, he moved very carefully on the field. The Celtics traded him for Al Horford in the final minutes of the game. Something to keep an eye on as the series continues.

  • Porzingi is slow

    Kristaps Porzingis is either sore or tired. He didn’t move nearly as smoothly as he had in the first half.

  • Kerry is in control now

    Kyrie has already taken the keys to Dallas’ creation here in the fourth round. He’s got six points, and he creates for others. Just found Danielle Gafford in transition for what marked the Mavs’ first ball to a big man in the entire series with 4:40 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

  • PJ Washington has not been contacted

    Credit PJ Washington for following up his recent miss, but he’s now 0-of-4 from deep after notching his first hat-trick. His lack of shooting prowess has taken away an entire dimension of Dallas’ offense.

  • Luca gets a break

    Quick break for Luka Doncic. Dallas got four points from Kyrie before the Celtics called timeout, and Doncic returned after about a minute’s rest.

  • Mavs coming up short

    The Mavs’ struggles from the foul line still create a big difference in Boston’s favor. The Celtics are 17 out of 18, and after Daniel Gafford went 1 out of 2, Dallas is 11 out of 19 and facing a nine-point deficit.

  • Fourth quarter groove?

    These first few minutes of the fourth quarter were the first minutes I felt there was any rhythm or flow throughout the game.

  • Oh my god, Payton Pritchard!

    After the Celtics took an 80-67 lead, the Mavericks responded with a 7-0 run to close the third quarter… until Payton Pritchard hit a 34-footer at the buzzer. Pritchard had a knack for those shots in the playoffs. The Celtics led 83-74 entering the fourth quarter.

  • The Mavs are flashing the pick-and-roll game

    Derek Lively with a huge two-handed dive off a pick-and-roll from Luka. This was the most effective PnR of the series to date.

  • The non-star Celtics get it done — unlike the Mavs’ role players

    Dallas doesn’t get anything from its supporting cast. The Mavericks, who did not name Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving, started 2-for-13 from the field and finished the first half with 18 points on 20 shots. Meanwhile, Boston’s “others” enjoyed a slow start from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who combined for 13 points on 14 shots in the first half. Everyone else on the Celtics scored 41 points on 25 shots. Boston led in the second half 54-51.

  • Tatum is a playmaker

    Tatum has been exceptional as a willing passer. Up to 8 assists. He attacks with the goal of creating opportunities for others and has earned nearly half of Boston’s points even by scoring just 5 points.

  • Tatum contributes in other ways

    Tatum doesn’t score, and that was almost an angry -1; But he had seven assists in the first half. Maybe this is a record for him.

  • Jrue Holiday feels it

    Jrue Holiday has been tremendous for keeping Boston on pace for Dallas’ offense. Back pieces, powerful engines, a set of floats. He is the Celtics’ top scorer with 14 points.

  • Derrick Jones Jr. steps up

    Some huge contributions from Derrick Jones Jr. An offensive rebound and assist on a cut by Josh Green, he finished off a nice pass from Luka, then stole a Tatum pass and finished and-1 to draw Tatum’s second foul.

  • Doncic does it all – except the FT line

    Luka fell for every type of shot in his bag tonight…except for his free throws as he is shooting 2 of 5 from the line. We see him getting a lot of work in posts that we haven’t really seen from him in the postseason, but Doncic has completely relied on him this past playoffs.

  • Jaylen Brown, who was up all night, has some encouragement for his team:

    “Whatever you do, do it with confidence,” Brown said. “Embrace the moment. Breathe in the moment.”

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