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Celtics beat Mavericks 105-98 for 2-0 NBA Finals lead

NEW YORK (AFP) – The Boston Celtics, fuelled by 26 points from Jrue Holiday, thwarted a desperate Dallas rally in the final minutes to beat the Mavericks 105-98 on yesterday and take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

On a night when early struggles from three-point range bedevilled the Celtics, their all-around effort on both ends of the floor saw them notch a second straight win at home.

They head to Dallas for game three tomorrow with a commanding lead. Jaylen Brown scored 21 points and Jayson Tatum added 18 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists.

Holiday credited Tatum for keeping the Celtics offense firing despite a rough shooting night that saw Tatum make just six of 22 shots with just one three-pointer.

“I would say a lot of it was JT,” Holiday said.

“They were double-teaming him and he was making the right play. The way that he played tonight, the way that he led us, getting into the paint, making plays, finding me wide open – it was all about him,” Holiday added.

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics dunks the ball. PHOTO: AFP

Hurting Mavericks star Luka Doncic – now nursing a chest contusion in addition to the right knee sprain and sore left ankle that have troubled him throughout the playoffs – delivered a triple-double of 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

But he didn’t get enough help from his supporting cast.

PJ Washington scored 17 points and eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving had 16 – connecting on seven of 18 shots and missing all three of his three-point attempts.

Doncic said turnovers and missed free-throws were also key. He had eight of the Mavericks’ 15 turnovers and Dallas made just 16 of their 24 free-throws. The Celtics made 19 of their 20 from the foul line.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to make some more shots,” Doncic said. “I think my turnovers and my missed free-throws cost us the game, so I’ve got to do way better in those two categories.

“But at the end of the day, we’ve got to make shots to win the game.”

The pressure will be on back in Dallas, with Boston unbeaten on the road this post-season.

“At the end of the day it’s basketball, away or home,” Doncic said. “We’ve just got to play better basketball to win.”

The Mavericks, trailing by 14 with less than four minutes remaining, made a final push and sliced the deficit to five with 1:15 to play, Doncic driving for a layup and converting the free-throw when he was fouled.