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How the Celtics can complete their sweep of the Mavs and bring home an NBA Championship

Leon Powe on Celtics big NBA Finals Game 3 win over Dallas and keys to a sweep
Leon Powe on Celtics big NBA Finals Game 3 win over Dallas and keys to a sweep 08:06

BOSTON -- Is Friday the night that the Boston Celtics finish off the Dallas Mavericks and win an NBA Championship? The Celtics can return to Boston for a championship parade sometime in the next few days, or they can return to Boston for a Game 5 on Monday night. 

The former sounds like a much better option than the latter. The Celtics feel the same way, are not going to let that 3-0 series cushion lead to a lackadaisical effort on Friday night in Dallas.

The Celtics survived a fourth-quarter comeback by the Mavs on Wednesday, and are now one win away from bringing Banner 18 to Boston. Nine other teams have swept their opposition out of the NBA Finals, a feat last accomplished by the 2018 Golden State Warriors. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 series hole in the NBA playoffs.

With a win Friday -- which would be Boston's 11th straight this postseason -- the Celtics can become the first team in NBA history to sweep a 7-game Conference Final and a 7-game NBA Finals series. But all they care about right now is the championship that is within their grasp.

"Ever since I've been in the NBA, especially with the Celtics -- everyone knows we only hang up championship banners," Jayson Tatum said Thursday. "It's been a while since we won one. Ever since 2008, the goal has been to win one. It's an honor to wear this jersey and follow in the footsteps of some of the best players ever.

"Being a part of Celtics history entails that you've got to win a championship," added Tatum. 

Tatum and the Celtics can get that done Friday night in Dallas. Here's how the team can finish off the Mavs and return to Boston NBA champs.

The Celtics can't let up

It's fair to question whether or not the Mavs have any desire to win Friday and continue this series. Does Luka Doncic really want to keep getting exposed on defense? Does Kyrie Irving really want to return to Boston again?

But forget about whether or not the Mavs want to extend this series. The Celtics shouldn't even give them a chance. Boston should play Friday night like it's down 0-3, not up 3-0.

"I think from our experiences over the past couple of years, the thing that we've really gotten a lot better at is not relaxing, not being complacent. From game to game or series to series, we always want more," Tatum said Thursday. "Maybe in recent years we took things for granted at some points or were happy to make it to certain rounds, where (now) we're not satisfied.

"Even now up 3-0, nobody is celebrating or anything. We still feel like there's a lot more that we can do. There's a lot more that we want to do," added Tatum.

The Celtics nearly let a 21-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night. But they made the plays they had to down the stretch and held on for the victory. Now they'll look to close out the Mavs on Friday night, bringing a perfect 3-0 record in closeout games this postseason in Game 4.

Closeout games were an issue for the Celtics in past postseasons. Taking care of business in those situations is another sign of the squad's maturity.

"I think we just locked in. I don't know exactly what it is, but we're just locked in. We know what's at stake," Derrick White said Thurdsay. "We understand that close-out games are the toughest, and we just come with an extra edge. It's going to be even harder [Friday], and we've got to be even better."

The Rise of The Jays

This moment has been building for the Celtics for 11 years, when Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets and acquired the picks that became Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Jays have won a lot in their seven seasons together, bringing Boston to five Conference Finals and two trips to the Finals (plus another Conference Finals appearance for Brown), but they've yet to seal the deal.

Brown spoke of last year's Eastern Conference Finals loss to the 8-seeded Miami Heat fueling this year's run.

"Last year, just falling short on your home floor, it definitely hurt. It was embarrassing, in my opinion," he said Thursday.

Brown took that personally and has been playing at an unreal level all season. He'll likely take home Finals MVP honors if/when the Celtics finish off the Mavs. While Tatum carried the load in the first half on Wednesday and finished with a team-high 31 points, Brown led the way in the second half and in crunch time, finishing with 30 points and eight assists. He hit a clutch jumper in the final minute to essentially seal the win.

Tatum and Brown became the first Celtics teammates with at least 30 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a Finals game on Wednesday night. While the Celtics are a complete team and get contributions from just about everyone, it all starts with their two stars.

Now that they're this close to their first title, expect the Jays to bring it again on Friday night.

Keep attacking Doncic

There was some praise for Doncic and his improved defense heading into the series. The Celtics have completely exposed that in the Finals, and they need to keep doing that Friday night.

The Celtics have been attacking Doncic every chance they get. Brown has yet to sit him down with a fierce crossover, as he did in the regular season, but he's left him in the dust on a number of thunderous dunks in the series. Brown really has it all going, as he's made it a point to prove his doubters wrong and go to his left on a lot of his moves to the hoop.

By attacking Doncic and forcing him to stay engaged on defense, the Mavs star has been gassed come the fourth quarter. He has just eight points in the final frame all series, going 3-for-15 from the floor while missing all four of his three-point attempts. On Wednesday, he fouled out with over five minutes left trying to draw a charge on Brown.

Doncic was livid in that moment and after the game, so expect him to come out like his hair is on fire Friday night. He's probably going to explode offensively, though the Boston defense has done a tremendous job making sure that hasn't happen over the first three games.

If the Celtics keep attacking Luka, he's going to wear down and have nothing left in the end. 

In Jrue We Trust

Holiday is the only player on the Celtics roster with a ring, which he won with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021. If the C's find themselves in a tight contest as they look to close out the Finals, they can rely on his calm demeanor and experience to find a path to victory.

Brown has been a stud, Tatum has made an all-around impact, and guys like White and Al Horford have stepped up for Boston all postseason. But Jrue has been the glue, and he hasn't given the Mavericks anything when he's had the ball in his hands. Holiday is a plus-35 over his 117 minutes this series, with 13 assists and zero turnovers. Holiday's last turnover came in the third quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Indiana. 

Holiday is averaging 15.4 points over the first three games of the series, shooting 59.4 percent from the floor while connecting on 41.7 percent of his threes. 

It likely won't, but if the going gets a bit tough on Friday night, the Celtics can rely on their veteran leader to keep things calm and lead them to victory -- and a title.

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