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'Not done yet': Celtics eye 18th title as Mavs vow to regroup

Thu Jun 13 5:28pm ET
Field Level Media

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DALLAS -- The Boston Celtics have history within their grasp going into Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday.

With a win, not only would the Celtics sweep the Dallas Mavericks, they would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most NBA championships of all time with 18.

It seems to be a matter of when, not if, Boston closes out the series. The Celtics have been dominant in the playoffs, and that continued with a 106-99 victory in Game 3 to take a 3-0 Finals lead on Wednesday night.

NBA teams have gone 156-0 when taking a 3-0 lead in any best-of-seven series, and there's no reason to think that streak is in jeopardy with Boston riding a 10-game winning streak and a perfect 7-0 road record this postseason.


But the Celtics aren't getting ahead of themselves.

"Nobody is celebrating or anything," Celtics star Jayson Tatum said Thursday. "We still feel like there's a lot more that we can do. There's a lot more that we want to do."

Added veteran Al Horford: "We're not allowing ourselves to think ahead. We're just trying to lock in on what we have to do. The job is not done yet."

Boston has proven to be the deeper, more talented team throughout the Finals. When Tatum struggled on the offensive end in the first two games in Boston, Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday stepped up. Tatum then delivered his best scoring performance in Game 3 with 31 points.

The Celtics were without center Kristaps Porzingis (left leg) in Game 3 and managed to fill the void just fine. Porzingis remains day-to-day.

"Kristaps has gotten better from yesterday to today," Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said Thursday. "He's fighting like hell to play. But it's going to be up to us to protect him and to make sure that it's in the best interest for him as a player and as a person."

The Celtics' defense, meanwhile, continues to play at a high level, holding the Mavs to fewer than 100 points in each of the first three games.

This is a Mavs team that topped the 100-point mark in all five of their games against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference finals. But Boston is a different animal with the versatility and various looks it can deploy.

Even when the Mavs had 62 combined points from stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in Game 3, the other nine players who saw minutes combined for just 37 points. The Mavs haven't been able to put it all together yet, largely because of the Celtics' defense.

Irving said the Celtics' defense is "very special to watch from afar."

"But also as a competitor, as a hooper, to be experiencing it at this level, it's an incredible teacher for me," Irving said. "I use it as a moment to learn how hard it is to win, especially against a great team that's going to guard you the way that they're guarding us."

Doncic has shown his brilliance on the offensive end at times but has also struggled on defense. Doncic and Mavs coach Jason Kidd both answered questions about all-time greats enduring similar playoff struggles early in their careers, such as Michael Jordan against Detroit and LeBron James against the Spurs.

"You've got to go through lows first to go on top," Doncic said. "I think that's great experience."

Added Kidd: "For great players, you have to fail to understand how to be successful at the highest stage. This is the highest level, being in the Finals."

Despite the long odds, Doncic isn't ready to give in yet. He felt the Mavs showed something in how they responded to a 21-point deficit early in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and rallying to make it a one-point game. Though the comeback fell short, the Mavs didn't go down without a fight.

"We've just got to believe," Doncic said. "We talk about it in the locker room. I know we can do it, and we're going to believe until the end."

--Drew Davison, Field Level Media

Player Notes
Charles Bassey Tue Jul 16 10:10pm

Free-agent center Charles Bassey (knee) agreed to a one-year, $2.2 million contract to remain in San Antonio. The 23-year-old has spent the last two seasons with the Spurs, most recently averaging 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 points in 19 games during the 2023-24 campaign. Unfortunately, Bassey suffered a torn ACL in December, so he may not be available to begin the season. But even when he's ready to return, he likely won't see the minutes required to be a viable fantasy option.

Kyrie Irving Tue Jul 16 10:00pm

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (hand) underwent surgery. The multi-time All-Star suffered a broken left hand during training a few weeks ago. However, there's a good chance he'll be good to go for training camp. He finished the 2023-24 campaign by averaging 25.6 points, 5.2 assists, and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 41.1% from behind the arc. While Irving is no longer in his prime, he's anticipated to remain a top fantasy producer as long as he can stay on the court, which has been an issue over the years.

Sandro Mamukelashvili Tue Jul 16 10:00pm

Free-agent forward/center Sandro Mamukelashvili agreed to a one-year, $2.2 million contract to return to the Spurs. The 25-year-old averaged only 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds last season. However, he earned a semi-routine spot in the rotation toward the end of the 2023-24 campaign, logging 26.1 minutes in April. With that said, Mamukelashvili won't be a consistent fantasy producer. But he could find his way into the starting lineup at some point in the season if Victor Wembanyama or Zach Collins aren't available.

Patrick Beverley Tue Jul 16 4:40pm

Jamal Collier of ESPN reported that former Milwaukee Bucks guard Patrick Beverley announced on his X account that he is signing with Hapoel Tel Aviv BC of the Israeli Basketball Premier League. Beverley started his pro basketball career overseas, playing in Greece and Russia. However, the 36-year-old has played the last 12 seasons in the NBA. He started last year's campaign with the 76ers but was dealt to Milwaukee in February at the trade deadline. In 73 regular season contests, the veteran guard averaged 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.

Gary Trent Jr. Tue Jul 16 4:20pm

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, free-agent guard Gary Trent Jr. signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. Trent joins his former Blazers teammate Damian Lillard in Wisconsin. Last year, the 25-year-old posted 13.7 points, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 2.6 rebounds across 71 contests during his final season in Toronto. He was most likely signed to provide depth to the Bucks' backcourt that needed help. Playing on a championship-caliber team, Trent could have an impact in fantasy and could see plenty of minutes on the court for his new team.

Kel'el Ware Tue Jul 16 9:50am

Miami Heat center Kel'el Ware posted his second double-double in four Summer League games on Monday, finishing a 102-73 victory over Oklahoma City with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. He went 5-for-12 from the field, including 1-for-2 from three-point range. Ware's efforts included one assist, one steal, and one block. The seven-footer, who was the 15th pick in last month's draft, has done very well during Summer League action, which could give him a chance to break into the Heat rotation straight away when the new NBA campaign kicks off. Ware has averaged 16.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks in 25.9 minutes in the Summer League.

Colby Jones Tue Jul 16 9:40am

Sacramento Kings shooting guard Colby Jones found his scoring touch against Utah in the Summer League on Monday, posting a game-high 25 points on 10-for-21 shooting in an 82-70 win. Four of his makes came from 12 attempts from beyond the arc, while Jones grabbed six rebounds and registered three steals with one block. Jones had totaled just 27 points in his previous four outings this summer. The Xavier product has performed well in the G League and boasts plenty of talent, but his pathway to regular playing time is blocked in Sacramento. After being a second-round pick last year, Jones logged only 6.4 minutes across 30 appearances during his rookie campaign.

Gregory Jackson Tue Jul 16 9:30am

Memphis Grizzlies forward GG Jackson II was in double-double form in Monday's Summer League clash against the Mavericks, notching 23 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes in a 108-88 win. After shooting below 30 percent in his first Las Vegas outing against the Kings, Jackson II did much better versus Dallas, going 9-for-19 from the field with a 3-for-8 effort from downtown. Jackson II made a lot of noise during his rookie campaign last season and has continued to produce good numbers in the Summer League. The 19-year-old has averaged 18.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals with four games played.

Daniss Jenkins Tue Jul 16 9:20am

Detroit Pistons guard Daniss Jenkins erupted for 26 points in Monday's 87-73 Summer League win against the Houston Rockets. The St. John's product nailed more triples (6) than the Rockets combined (5) and finished 8-for-16 overall from the field while netting all four free throws. He grabbed three rebounds, handed out four assists, and made valuable plays defensively by logging a steal and two blocks. Jenkins went undrafted last month but landed himself a two-way deal with the Pistons. He will likely need to settle for G League action in 2024-25, with Detroit's backcourt looking fairly crowded.

Dalton Knecht Tue Jul 16 9:10am

Los Angeles Lakers guard/forward Dalton Knecht put up a team-high 19 points in Monday's 88-74 loss to the Celtics in the Las Vegas Summer League. This was a bad outing for Knecht efficiency-wise, as he shot only 7-for-21 from the field, but the 23-year-old produced a solid fantasy line. In 35 minutes, Knecht added three rebounds, two assists, three steals, and one block to his tally. Knecht has battled shooting issues throughout the Summer League, but he has been praised for his overall ability and is projected to play a significant role in the rotation for the Lakers in 2024-25. Overall, Knecht has averaged 17.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.6 steals during Summer League play.

Neemias Queta Tue Jul 16 9:00am

Boston Celtics center Neemias Queta put in another good performance in the Summer League on Monday, leading the way in an 88-74 victory over the Lakers with 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting. The Portuguese big man added eight rebounds and had three blocks in 25 minutes. Queta, who recently agreed a three-year extension with the Celtics, has averaged 21.0 points and 8.5 boards in this year's Summer League. The 25-year-old has looked great in the competition, but unfortunately for him, Queta faces a lot of competition for playing time in Boston and will likely continue to struggle to get regular action in 2024-25.

Seth Curry Mon Jul 15 10:50pm

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, free-agent guard Seth Curry agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Hornets. The 33-year-old has bounced around the league before most recently landing in Charlotte to finish the 2024-25 campaign. However, he appeared in just eight games due to injury, averaging 9.0 points while shooting only 32.1% from behind the arc. Curry will provide valuable guidance to an up-and-coming team in 2024-25. But his fantasy upside is severely limited, and that isn't expected to change at any point during the season.

Brice Sensabaugh Mon Jul 15 8:30pm

Utah Jazz forward Brice Sensabaugh (finger) will miss the rest of Summer League. The 20-year-old was injured during Saturday's meeting with the Dallas Mavericks, with an MRI revealing a torn tendon in his left middle finger. He showed flashes of promise in 2023-24, averaging 10.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 11 starts. With that said, Sensabaugh will be re-evaluated in six weeks, so there's a chance he could return before training camp.

Cameron Payne Mon Jul 15 8:20pm

Free-agent guard Cameron Payne agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Knicks on Monday. The 29-year-old began the 2023-24 campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks but was traded to Philadelphia midway through the season. He made 31 appearances for the 76ers, averaging 9.3 points and 3.1 assists. With Miles McBride and Donte DiVincenzo in the equation behind Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson, Payne could have difficulty getting on the floor, meaning he'll likely be irrelevant in most fantasy drafts heading into the 2024-25 season.

Cam Whitmore Mon Jul 15 9:20am

Houston Rockets forward Cam Whitmore stood out against the Wizards at both ends of the floor in Sunday's 109-91 Summer League win. The 20-year-old led all scorers with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting and racked up eight rebounds, four assists, five steals, and one block. Whitmore, who was named the Las Vegas Summer League MVP last year, also produced a dominant two-way performance against the Lakers on Friday. The Villanova product showed a lot of upside after breaking into the rotation during the second half of the season in 2023-24, and it looks like Whitmore could bring even more to the table during his sophomore campaign.

Brandin Podziemski Mon Jul 15 9:10am

Golden State Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski produced a great outing on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls In the NBA Summer League. The 21-year-old recorded a team-high 21 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, and one steal in a 92-82 victory. Podziemski was on fire from deep, going 4-for-8, and finished with 8-for-14 overall shooting. On the negative side, Podziemski registered seven turnovers in 35 minutes. Podziemski had a good rookie campaign but continues picking up invaluable experience in the Summer League. He's been a force all over the court for the Warriors, averaging 17.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.3 steals in three games.

Julian Strawther Mon Jul 15 9:10am

Denver Nuggets guard/forward Julian Strawther was the top scorer in Sunday's Summer League action, finishing an 84-81 loss to Toronto with 32 points. The Las Vegas native shot 10-for-21 from the field with a 6-for-12 effort from outside and completed his line with three rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Strawther was used very sparingly by the Nuggets during his rookie campaign, but he's carrying a big load in the Summer League, averaging 28.5 points in close to 34 minutes per game. The 2023 champions have lost a pair of big backcourt pieces this offseason, meaning we should see Strawther a lot more in 2024-25, and he's produced encouraging performances in Las Vegas.

Matas Buzelis Mon Jul 15 8:50am

Chicago Bulls guard/forward Matas Buzelis led all scorers with 28 points in Sunday's 92-82 defeat against the Golden State Warriors in the Las Vegas Summer League. The 19-year-old, who was selected 11th in this year's draft, hit 4-for-8 from downtown and finished 10-for-22 overall from the floor. He snagged a pair of steals and also registered five rebounds. Buzelis is off to a good start in the Summer League, although he struggled badly with his shot in his first appearance against Milwaukee on Saturday. With two games played, Buzelis has averaged 21.5 points and 6.0 rebounds.

Zaccharie Risacher Mon Jul 15 8:30am

Atlanta Hawks forward Zaccharie Risacher had a frustrating Summer League outing against the Spurs on Sunday. The top pick of this year's draft continued to struggle with his shooting and settled for 11 points while going 4-for-12 from the field in a 79-76 loss. He collected five rebounds and had a pair of assists with one block but finished with a 1-for-7 record from downtown. Risacher has shot below 40 percent from the field through his first two games in Las Vegas. However, the 19-year-old Frenchman is not the first rookie to struggle with his shot in his first few outings, and he definitely won't be the last.

Reed Sheppard Sun Jul 14 10:30pm

Houston Rockets guard Reed Sheppard finished Sunday's Summer League win over the Washington Wizards by recording 22 points, adding seven assists, six rebounds, five steals, and one block. After an impressive outing on Friday night, the 2024 No. 3 overall pick had another quality outing on Sunday. Sheppard has had an excellent summer, combining for 45 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, six steals, and four blocks in two contests. He's also shot 5-for-11 from downtown. Without question, Sheppard's fantasy stock continues to increase, especially since he could see routine minutes with the Rockets during the 2024-25 campaign.