NBA Finals: Jrue Holiday takes center stage as Celtics fend off late Mavericks rally for 2-0 series lead

The Dallas Mavericks bounced back from a Game 1 blowout Sunday night with a big game from Luka Dončić and an improved effort from the field.

It didn’t matter.

The Boston Celtics overcame poor shooting from 3 and from Jayson Tatum to secure a 105-98 win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Jrue Holiday paced the Boston offense with one of his best outings of the season. The Celtics now hold a 2-0 series lead as the series sets to shift to Dallas for Game 3. Per ESPN, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the Finals have a 31-5 (86.1%) record.

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

Boston won Game 1 after blowing the game open with a 58-29 second-quarter advantage and never letting Dallas sniff the lead from there. Dallas looked like the stronger team early Sunday as Dončić took over with a 23-point first-half effort. After scoring 12 points in Game 1, Kyrie Irving had 10 at halftime as Boston had few answers for Dallas’ elite backcourt duo.

But the Celtics still managed a 54-51 halftime lead while shooting 3-of-15 from long distance. Then they turned the screws on defense to open the third quarter and take control of the game. Dallas turnovers — many of them by Dončić — were repeatedly converted to points on the other end.

The Celtics extended their lead to 83-74 in a third quarter that was capped by a miracle 3-pointer from backup point guard Payton Pritchard.

By the fourth quarter, Boston's defense was in control, and its 3-point shooting was back to form. A Derrick White 3-pointer extended the Celtics lead to 103-89 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

Dallas wasn't done, though. The Mavericks went on a late 9-0 run to trim the Celtics lead to 103-98 with 1:15 remaining. Then, as the clock ticked into the final minute, Dallas threatened to cut the game to a single possession. Derrick White had other ideas.

Derrick Jones Jr. blocked a Tatum layup at the rim to ignite a Dallas fast break. 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 — an All-Defensive Team selection alongside Holiday — chased the play down and blocked Washington from behind.

The block stunted the Mavericks' rally and all but ended the game. Boston scored on the other end, and the Mavericks didn't score again.

While Tatum struggled from the field, Holiday took the reins on offense. The former All-Star and champion with the Milwaukee Bucks is a featured player in a Celtics offense that can count on any of its starters and now-sixth man Kristaps Porziņģis to take over on any given night. It was Holiday’s turn Sunday in arguably his best offensive outing of the season.

Holiday floated the Celtics' offense at halftime with 17 points. He finished the game with a team-high 26 points and 11 rebounds alongside 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 victory in Game 1. He tallied 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 a well-rounded effort that featured his skills as a playmaker. He finished with 18 points, a game-high 12 assists and 9 rebounds.

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

Dončić cooled down after his 23-point first half as Boston's defense took control. He finished with a 32-point, 11-assist, 11-rebound triple-double. He tallied 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 halftime. He finished with 16 points and six assists while shooting 7-of-18 from the field. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts and has yet to hit a 3-pointer in the series after shooting 0-for-5 in Game 1.

And free throws were costly for Dallas once again. The Mavericks left points at the line on a 16-of-24 effort as the Celtics hit 19 of 20 attempts.

Game 3 on Wednesday will provide Dallas the comforts of home that could help Irving's shooting woes. But the Mavericks face an uphill climb with NBA history working against them as they look to make this a series.

  • Final score is Boston 105, Dallas 98 as the Celtics take the 2-0 series lead.

  • Huge block from Derrick White to keep Boston's lead.

  • Derrick White finally connecting

    Derrick White has struggled with his shot throughout these playoffs, but he's hit four huge 3s on a night when no other Boston player has connected on more than two from distance. After a sloppy turnover from Dallas, the Celtics are in clear position up 103-89 with 3:32 to play.

  • Kristaps Porzingis could be a storyline moving forward

    Kristaps Porzingis, playing his second game since missing more than a month with a right soleus strain, does not look like himself in the second half. He briefly retreated to the locker room before returning to the bench. Upon reentering the game, he was moving gingerly on the court. The Celtics subbed him out in favor of Al Horford in the final minutes of the game. Something to monitor as the series continues.

  • Porzingis sluggish

    Kristaps Porzingis is either hurt or tired. Not moving with nearly the same fluidity as he was in the first half.

  • Kyrie now taking control

    Kyrie has really taken the keys to Dallas' creation here in the fourth. He's got six points, he's creating for others. Just found Daniel Gafford in transition for what marks the Mavs' first lob to a big man all series with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

  • P.J. Washington not dialed in

    Credit to P.J. Washington for following his latest miss, but he's now 0-of-4 from deep after hitting his first triple. His lack of shooting prowess has sapped an entire dimension from Dallas' offense.

  • Luka gets a breather

    A quick breather for Luka Doncic. Dallas got four points from Kyrie before the Celtics called timeout, and Doncic is back after resting for roughly a minute.

  • Mavs coming up short

    The Mavs' struggles from the foul line are still creating a huge differential in Boston's favor. The Celtics are 17-of-18 from the line, and after Daniel Gafford goes 1-of-2, Dallas is just 11-of-19 and facing a nine-point deficit.

  • Fourth-quarter groove?

    These first few minutes of the fourth quarter are the first that have felt like they've had any rhyhthm or flow for the whole game.

  • Oh my, Payton Pritchard!

    After the Celtics build an 80-67 lead, the Mavericks responded on a 7-0 run to close the third quarter ... until Payton Pritchard drills a 34-footer at the buzzer. Pritchard has had a knack for those shots in the playoffs. Celtics lead, 83-74, entering the fourth quarter.

  • Mavs flash their pick-and-roll

    Dereck Lively with a huge two-handed dunk out of a pick-and-roll from Luka. That was their most effective P-n-R of the series so far.

  • Celtics non-stars getting it done — unlike the Mavs' role players

    Dallas is getting nothing from its supporting cast. Mavericks not named Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving started 2-for-13 from the field and finished the opening half with 18 points on 20 shots. Meanwhile, Boston's "others" are carrying a slow start from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have combined for 13 points on 14 shots in the first half. Everyone else on the Celtics has scored 41 points on 25 shots. Boston leads at the break, 54-51.

  • Tatum the playmaker

    Tatum has been exceptional as a willing passer. Up to 8 assists. He's attacking closeouts with the goal of creating for others and he's generated almost half of Boston's points even with scoring just 5 of his own.

  • Tatum contributing in other ways

    Tatum isn’t scoring, that and-1 was almost an exasperated one; but he does have seven assists in the first half. Maybe that’s a record for him.

  • Jrue Holiday is feeling it

    Jrue Holiday has been massive to keep Boston on pace with Dallas' offense. Back cuts, powerful drives, an array of floaters. He's the Celtics' leading scorer with 14 points.

  • Derrick Jones Jr. stepping up

    Some huge contributions from Derrick Jones Jr. An offensive rebound and assist to cutting Josh Green, finishes a sweet no-look pass from Luka, then steals a Tatum pass and finishes an and-1 to draw Tatum's second foul.

  • Doncic doing it all — except at the FT line

    Luka has had every shot type in his bag fall tonight ... except his free throws as he's 2-of-5 from the line. We're seeing him get plenty of work in postups that we haven't really seen from him this postseason, but Doncic has absolutely relied on in past playoffs.

  • Jaylen Brown, who's mic'd up for the night, has some encouragement for his team:

    "Whatever you do, do it with confidence," Brown said. "Embrace the moment. Breathe into it."

  • Dante Exum gets early minutes

    Dante Exum starts the second quarter for Dallas with Luka and Kyrie both on the floor. Exum only played in garbage time in Game 1, but this three-guard lineup was one of the Mavs' best during the regular season.

  • Where's Jayson Tatum?

    And just like Game 1, Jayson Tatum is scoreless, this time for the entire first quarter. He's 0-of-4 from the floor with 1 assist.

  • Dončić isn't letting his injuries slow him down, getting in a tricky one-legged jumper. He leads the Mavs with 15 points in the first quarter.

  • Boston fortunate so far

    The Celtics should feel lucky to be down 3. They’re forcing turnovers and the Mavs are missing at the FT line (4-of-9). By the way, Jayson Tatum is 0-4 from the floor

  • Celtics struggling from 3

    After hitting seven 3-pointers and taking a 17-point lead in the opening quarter of Game 1, the Celtics missed their first eight attempts from distance in Game 2 and trail after one, 28-25. Each member of Boston's rotation missed at least one 3-point attempt before Al Horford broke the streak with five seconds left in the first frame.

  • Kyrie getting it done

    Kyrie just has a way of nailing twisting layups that puncture a road crowd. Two big ones to give Dallas the lead after one quarter.

  • Letting them play

    There's been a very light whistle so far in this one. Nine fouls (5 on Dallas, 4 on Boston) ha generated 14 total free throws. And Boston is 10-of-10 from the line.

  • Guarding Luka

    Jrue Holiday has spent the last few possessions on Luka, but he draws his second foul. Before Tatum went to the bench, the Celtics had their All-NBA superstar guarding Lively, so that Tatum and Brown could easily switch the Doncic assignment.

  • Jaylen Brown keeps adding to his NBA Finals highlight reel

  • Making things easier for Luka

    Dallas is trying to alleviate pressure on Luka by having someone else bring up the ball. You can’t tell he’s hurt when he’s dancing, but Luka is laboring a bit.

  • Luka Dončić was seen heavily wrapped up during pregame. Per the Mavericks, Dončić is suffering from a chest injury, right knee sprain and left ankle soreness going into the game, but is toughing it out for the Finals.

  • Maxi Kleber misfiring

    After hardly looking to shoot in Game 1, Maxi Kleber doesn't hesitate to fire on his first look in Game 2. His first was a total airball, short. His second attempt clanked off the rim on the next possession. The Mavericks need his effectiveness from distance — especially in two-big lineups like this current Dallas group with him and Dereck Lively.

  • Mavs lose challenge early

    Not a terrific challenge from Jason Kidd. P.J. Washington clearly made contact with Derrick White, and now the Mavs are down a timeout.

  • Kyrie getting it done early

    Kyrie enjoyed a super long warmup tonight, going through his spinning layup package and bombing threes for almost 30 minutes. Most guys' on-court work takes about 15. It's showing so far as he's been aggressive from the jump for five of Dallas' first 13 points as the Celtics call timeout with 8:18 remaining in the first.

  • Luka a target

    On several of Boston's first few half-court possessions, Jayson Tatum has intentionally hunted Luka Doncic on switches. The Celtics want to wear down the Mavs superstar.

  • Boston still doesn't like Kyrie

    The boo birds sound even louder for Kyrie Irving tonight than on Thursday, but he's on the board with his first bucket on a driving layup at 11:11 of the first.

  • TD Garden is ready and rowdy for Game 2

    The crowd in Boston for Game 2 feels a bit more lubed up than in Game 1. When the Jumbotron flashed Kyrie Irving's quote, "I thought it would be a little louder in here," fans responded with a loud "Kyrie sucks!" chant — roughly half an hour before tipoff. And once again, Kristaps Porzingis made a WWE-style entrance, roughly five minutes after his teammates took the floor, igniting another ovation. TD Garden is about to pop off.

  • Dan Hurley's Lakers decision reportedly coming soon

    Elsewhere around the NBA — not that Celtics fans, in particular, are paying too much attention to or care much about what's happening in L.A. — UConn men's basketball coach Dan Hurley is reportedly set to decide Monday if he'll take the Lakers job or head back to the Huskies in search of a three-peat after winning national championships each of the past two seasons.

    Yahoo Sports' Ryan Young had UConn at No. 5 in his way-too-early 2024-25 rankings after the Huskies cut down the nets for a second straight season

  • Luka meets fans before Game 2

    Despite being on the road and banged up before Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Luka Doncic is still a man of the people as Dallas fans made the trek to TD Garden to check out warmups.

  • Is Jaylen Brown Boston's best player?

    While Mavericks coach Jason Kidd called Jaylen Brown the Celtics' best player — many would argue Jayson Tatum in that spot, and Kristaps Porzingis was likely their best player in Game 1 — during the NBA Finals, it may not matter if the NBA's first $300 million man is or isn't, says Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Ben Rohrbach.

    "You could make the argument that Brown has been Boston's best player in these playoffs. He did win Eastern Conference finals MVP honors and deserved it. He has been the heartbeat of his team, playing with a force whenever the game has demanded it — however rarely, in Boston's case this postseason."

  • Luka to play through the pain tonight in Game 2

    As expected, despite being listed as questionable heading into Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Luka Doncic will play tonight in Boston. He's dealing with three injuries, according to the Mavericks, but the NBA's leading scorer will give it a go tonight in Boston. The Mavs will need big production from their superstar to avoid heading back to Dallas for Game 3 facing a 2-0 series deficit.