Mavericks keep NBA finals alive with beatdown of Celtics in Game 4

<span>The <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Dallas Mavericks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Dallas Mavericks</a> celebrate as they make their way to a Game 4 victory. </span><span>Photograph: Sam Hodde/AP</span>

The Dallas Mavericks kept their slim championship hopes alive on Friday night as they beat the Boston Celtics to win their first game in this year’s NBA finals in emphatic fashion.

Related: NBA finals Game 4: Boston Celtics 84-122 Dallas Mavericks – as it happened

Dallas came into Friday’s game trailing 0-3 in the best-of-seven series, a deficit no NBA team has ever recovered from in the postseason. Luka Dončić had attracted heavy criticism for his defensive deficiencies so far this series, but the Slovenian tightened that side of his game up while maintaining his usual offensive excellence, as he scored 29 points, 25 of them in the first half, in his team’s 122-84 beatdown victory.


Best-of-seven series. All times US eastern time (EDT). 

Thu 6 Jun Game 1: Celtics 107, Mavericks 89

Sun 9 Jun Game 2: Celtics 105, Mavericks 98

Wed 12 Jun Game 3: Celtics 106, Mavericks 99

Fri 14 Jun Game 4: Mavericks 122, Celtics 84

Mon 17 Jun Game 5: Mavericks at Celtics (8.30pm, ABC)

Thu 20 Jun Game 6: Celtics at Mavericks (8.30pm, ABC)*

Sun 23 Jun Game 7: Mavericks at Celtics (, ABC)*

*if necessary

“We had to play our A-game,” said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd. “It was this or we go on vacation. I thought the group did a great job of not pressing, letting the game happen. The flow was there. We’ve done this in the first three games, we just hadn’t been able to capitalize.”

Such was the one-sided nature of the game that by the time the fourth-quarter rolled around both teams had benched most of their starters. The 38-point final margin was the third-biggest ever in an NBA finals game, behind only Chicago beating Utah 96-54 in 1998 and the Celtics beating the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 in 2008. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Mavs led by 48 points.

The loss – Boston’s first in five weeks – snapped the Celtics’ franchise-record, 10-game postseason winning streak, and it took away the chance they had at being the first team in NBA history to win both the conference finals and the finals in 4-0 sweeps.

“Preparation doesn’t guarantee an automatic success,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “I thought we had a great process. I thought we had a great shootaround. Thought we had a great film session yesterday. I thought the guys came out with the right intentions. I just didn’t think it went our way, and I thought Dallas outplayed us. They just played harder.”

Jayson Tatum scored 15 points, Sam Hauser had 14 while Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday each finished with 10 for the Celtics. Kyrie Irving had 21 points for the Mavericks, while Dereck Lively grabbed 12 rebounds.

The series now moves to Boston for Game 5 on Monday, when the Celtics will attempt to win a record-tying 18th NBA championship. After Friday’s performance that task looks a little tougher.

“We got to play the same way [in Boston],” Dončić said after the game. “Their fans are going to be loud, so we have to stay focused and do the same things we did today.”

Dončić has been carrying a number of injuries throughout the playoffs but winning seemed to help his aches and pains. Asked how he was feeling physically, Dončić grinned and replied “Amazing.”