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Celtics defend home court in Game 2 victory over Mavs

Nathaniel S. Butler / National Basketball Association / Getty

BOSTON (AP) — Jrue Holiday provided scoring. Derrick White added a chase-down block. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown contributed, too — with their passing and defense.

The Mavericks can stop worrying about who Boston’s best player is. Everyone the Celtics put in the game is helping them close in on an unprecedented 18th NBA championship.

Holiday had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and White sprinted down the court to swat away Dallas’ last chance to make it a one-possession game on Sunday night as Boston beat the Mavericks 105-98 to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

“I’m really tired of hearing about one guy or this guy or that guy and everybody trying to make it out to be anything other than Celtic basketball,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Everybody that stepped on that court today made winning plays on both ends of the floor.”

Tatum made up for a rough shooting night with 12 assists and nine rebounds to go with his 18 points. Brown scored 21 with three steals, White had 18 points and three steals, and Peyton Pritchard’s only basket of the game was a banked half-courter to beat the third quarter buzzer and give Boston an 83-74 lead.

“That’s why they are the No. 1 team in the NBA with the No. 1 record,” said Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who scored 32 with 11 rebounds and 11 assists — the first NBA Finals triple-double in Dallas franchise history. “They have a lot of great players. Basically, anybody can get off.”

Doncic, who was listed as questionable to play less than two hours before the opening tipoff, had his 10th career playoff triple-double. But he scored only three points in the fourth, converting a three-point play with 1:15 left as Dallas scored nine in a row to cut a 14-point deficit to 103-98.

After Derrick Jones Jr. blocked Tatum’s dunk attempt, White ran down the court to block — along with Brown — P.J. Washington’s potential dunk. Brown made a layup at the other end, and then Doncic missed a one-footed, running floater from 3-point range with 28 seconds left, ending Dallas’ last chance at a comeback.

“He was great,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “Luka is a special player — if not the best player in the world — and he causes a problem. ... He’s able to create open opportunities and we just didn’t take advantage of them.”

Games 3 and 4 are Wednesday and Friday in Dallas. Boston has not lost on the road this postseason, but the Mavericks need to snap that streak to avoid a sweep and earn a trip back to the Boston Garden, where the local fans are already making space in the rafters for another banner.

It was the ninth time the Celtics have won the opening pair in the NBA Finals. They have won the previous eight, and have never been forced to a Game 7 in any of them.

A day after Kidd attempted to sow dissension in the Celtics locker room by calling Brown — not Tatum, an All-NBA first-teamer — the team’s best player, Boston showed why it doesn’t matter.

Kristaps Porzingis limped his way to 12 points for top-seeded Boston. Tatum was 6 for 22 shooting and 1 of 7 from 3-point range; the Celtics were 10 for 39 from long distance overall.

Kyrie Irving, who’s drawn the animosity of the local fans ever since cutting short his stay in Boston in 2019, scored 16 points; he has lost 12 games in a row against the Celtics.

Unlike their 107-89 victory in Game 1, when Boston went 7 for 15 from 3-point range in the first quarter to sprint to a 17-point lead, the Celtics missed their first eight attempts from long range on Sunday. Dallas led the entire first quarter.

Tatum was scoreless in the first and had only five at halftime, when he was still 0 for 3 from 3-point range. Boston was still just 5 for 30 from long distance when Peyton Pritchard banked in a half-courter at the third-quarter buzzer to give Boston an 83-74 lead.

That excited the crowd, which previously had spent most of its time serenading Irving with boos — and semi-vulgar chants. Before the game, the scoreboard showed Irving’s postgame quote from Game 1, where he said he thought the crowd would be louder.

The fans roared.

Irving, who scored 16 points, has lost 12 games in a row against the Celtics.

“A little disappointed in myself not being able to convert a lot more of my opportunities in the lane,” he said. “My teammates look for me to convert a lot of shots and lessen the burden not only on Luka but the entire team.”



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