The Boston Celtics entered Game 3 of the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night with their confidence soaring due to back-to-back home wins to begin the series. However, news of Kristaps Porzingis' mysterious left leg injury stole headlines entering the day, and the star big man was ruled out for this matchup. Suddenly, it appeared as if the Mavs were going to have the momentum and a strong chance to claim their first victory over Boston.

Early on in Game 3, that seemed to be the case with Dallas hitting their first four shots and taking a 9-2 lead. This immediately led to a Joe Mazzulla timeout in order to settle things down before his team began to spiral on the road. The first quarter was the best quarter the Mavs have played in the NBA Finals. A 9-2 lead quickly turned into a 25-12 lead for the Mavericks, but the Celtics did not go away and were able to pull within a point at the end of the opening quarter.

From there, this game began to shift in Boston's favor as a result of Boston's clutch shooting from the perimeter. Coming out of halftime, the Celtics turned on the jets, outscoring the Mavericks 35-19 to enter the fourth quarter with a 15-point lead. Although they battled back and pulled within a point of the Celtics with just over three-and-a-half minutes remaining, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown proved to be too much for the Mavs, who were without Luka Doncic for the final four minutes after fouling out.

The Celtics took Game 3 on the road 106-99 to take a 3-0 series lead. Interestingly enough, this game seemed to follow a similar pattern as the other two. Boston has scored 105, 106, and 107 points throughout this series thus far. The Mavericks have failed to cross the 100-point plateau in every game.

With this series now at 3-0 in favor of the Celtics, the Mavs find themselves in a spot they did not wish to be in. No team in the history of the NBA has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit, yet alone in the NBA Finals. A total of 156 teams have tried, and 156 teams have failed. Will the Mavericks be the first in what would instantly become the greatest comeback in the history of basketball?

Should the Celtics close things out in Game 4 and complete the sweep, would Jaylen Brown be the undisputed NBA Finals MVP? If the Mavericks can prolong this series, perhaps that will change the rankings for Finals MVP.

Once again, Boston finds themselves dominating the rankings for NBA Finals MVP. Only one win separates them from the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

5. Kyrie Irving – Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots against Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) during the third quarter in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 stats: 35 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists | Previously ranked: Unranked

Someone needed to step up next to Luka Doncic in order for the Mavs to have a chance at winning Game 3 on their home floor, and Kyrie Irving answered that call. Despite still coming up short, Irving had his best game of the 2024 NBA Finals, scoring a team-high 35 points on 13-of-28 shooting and 4-of-6 from three-point range. Irving, who has been attacked by Jrue Holiday and Derrick White defensively, made it his mission to drive hard to the rim and hunt his shots in Game 3.

This is the version of Kyrie that the Mavericks need in order to win Game 4 and extend this series on Friday. He is at his best when he is able to get downhill towards the rim, especially when Doncic is able to hover around the perimeter, waiting for his opportunity to strike.

As his team prepares for a do-or-die game in the NBA Finals, Irving's mindset is solely on the idea of not giving up just yet.

“Man, I just really think about going home. This is a metaphor here. Just be ready,” Irving said after Game 4 on Wednesday. “Just go home, get the ammo ready, get the bazooka, the 50 cal ready. Get everything ready, because when we come into Game 4, we know we got to shoot our shots and we got to do it with an aggression.”

You just never know what is going to happen during the NBA Finals. The Celtics have won the first three games, but the fourth and final game is always the hardest to claim. If Irving can continue to score 30-plus points and help dictate the pace of play next to Doncic, his case for NBA Finals MVP will only grow, assuming Dallas can string together some wins.

4. Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after a play against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 stats: 27 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists | Previously ranked: No. 4

Luka Doncic certainly deserves a lot of the blame for what transpired in Game 3. Aside from fouling out with just over four minutes left on a bang-bang play that could've gone either way, Doncic killed his own team's momentum during the second and third quarters by not locking in defensively.

Overall, this was not a great 27-point night for Luka. There were a lot of easier-looking shots that he normally hits that were just not falling, and the lack of foul calls Doncic was receiving fueled his anger. The constant bickering and complaining to the officials resulted in Doncic not getting back on defensively, which directly impacted the quick offensive spurts the Celtics had to fuel their first-half comeback.

This also played a role in the demeanor and energy the Mavericks played with as well. Role players not only play better at home, but they thrive off of the energy their leaders create. Luka's attitude was terrible, and he was constantly looking to come up with excuses when things were not going his way. It was easy to see that this impacted the energy and confidence of PJ Washington, Derrick Jones Jr., and Josh Green.

“I just really want to win,” Doncic told the media on Thursday. “Sometimes I don't show it the right way, but at the end of the day, I really want to win. I've got to do a better job showing it a different way.”

It will be very interesting to see what adjustments Doncic makes in terms of his defensive awareness and leadership on the court because something needs to change in order for Dallas to avoid being swept.

3. Jrue Holiday – Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers in the first half during game two of the eastern conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at TD Garden.
Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 stats: 9 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds | Previously ranked: No. 2

The NBA Finals have really proven how valuable a player Jrue Holiday is. Aside from his defensive abilities, which we are all aware of at this point in his career, Holiday's leadership has truly stuck out the most. This is why he is near the front of the NBA Finals MVP discussion.

While Game 3 was not his best scoring performance, Holiday stepped up in big moments during this game. He had three huge offensive rebounds, and Holiday's defensive effort down the stretch really impacted the outcome of this game.

The one play that comes to mind is when he ran into PJ Washington's screen, resulting in the referees blowing their whistle for an illegal screen. Although this was a pretty bold call to make late in the fourth quarter, it was likely the right call. Holiday, being the strong defender that he is, knew exactly what he needed to do in that situation to get the whistle.

Holiday is the epitome of a championship building block. Success always follows Holiday, and he is doing the exact same thing in this NBA Finals that he did a few years back with the Milwaukee Bucks. The veteran guard is the Celtics' stabilizer, which is why he deserves a lot of recognition in the Finals MVP race.

2. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates after their win against the Dallas Mavericks in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 stats: 31 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists | Previously ranked: No. 3

The expectations placed on Jayson Tatum's shoulders are immense. It is quite unfair the pressure everyone puts on him because Tatum is a really great player.

Is Luka Doncic better? Probably. But that shouldn't take away from the fact that Tatum is still going out on the floor every night and finding ways to impact winning. Just because he isn't the Celtics' leading scorer every night does not mean that Tatum doesn't make a difference in the outcome of the game.

From his defensive abilities to his rebounding to his passing in this series, Tatum has been the Celtics' best all-around player, right next to Holiday. The main reason for him rising up in the Finals MVP rankings is because of his 31-point night in Game 3, where he nailed four triples. The most important trait that Tatum brings to the table in Boston's championship pursuit is his mindset of sacrificing for the greater good of the team.

“Man, I want everyone to be at their best,” Tatum told Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes recently. “I want everyone to contribute. Winning will take care of everything. Finals MVP or whatever, a champion is a champion. That's the goal. I want for my teammates what I want for myself. I want everybody to shine. There's enough attention for all of us. And so, I want everybody to give us theirs.”

Well, Tatum is surely on the verge of making his dream the Celtics' reality.

1. Jaylen Brown – Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts to the crowd during the fourth quarter during game three of the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 stats: 30 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists | Previously ranked: No. 3

Out of all the players in this series, Jaylen Brown has been the most impressive player on the floor in all three games. Not only has he scored at least 20 points in every game of the NBA Finals, but Brown's rebounding abilities have been the difference in the Celtics finding success when times get tough.

What transpired in Game 3 essentially sealed the deal for Brown to be named the NBA Finals MVP unless the Celtics somehow end up on the wrong side of history or this series gets extended to Game 7. At that point, anyone could emerge as the hero on either side.

On offense, Brown has been the catalyst for almost every good thing that has happened for the Celtics in this series. He is moving the ball well, and when things become stagnant, Brown has been the one to initiate the offense and drive the ball hard to the rim.

The main reason why Brown sticks out as the favorite for Finals MVP is because of the growth he has made this year compared to when the Celtics made the NBA Finals in 2022. Then, Brown was not as assertive, and he played passive at times next to Tatum. This year, he is taking the game into his own hands, propelling the Celtics to their 3-0 series lead.

“Experience is the best teacher. All year long we've been hearing about the Celtics are the past, for the last six to eight months, that's all we've been hearing is all the different shortcomings we've had in the past,” Brown said after Game 3. “This is a new team, you know what I mean. We've learned from those experiences. And in these moments, you can see that we learned from it. We stepped up to the plate, and we found a way to win.”

Winning in the NBA Finals leads to MVP honors, and for Brown, his time is coming.