Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, bottom, hits the floor while...

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, bottom, hits the floor while pressured by Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, top, during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Boston. Credit: AP/Michael Dwyer

DALLAS — Luka Doncic tried to set his feet just beyond the 3-point line as the Dallas Mavericks were making a furious comeback attempt.

The superstar in his first NBA Finals was defending Jaylen Brown when the Boston guard dribbled between his legs, ducked his shoulder and made contact that sent both players hard to the ground with 4:12 left in the game. The foul was called against Doncic, who sat on the floor in disbelief with both of his arms stretched up into the air.

It was Doncic's sixth foul of the game, his fourth in the fourth quarter, and his night was done after coach Jason Kidd's unsuccessful challenge of the call. The Mavericks also were pretty much done for the game — and maybe the series as well — after the Boston Celtics won 106-99 on Wednesday night to go up 3-0 in the series.

“Yeah, we had a good chance. We were close. Just didn’t get it,” Doncic said. “I wish I was out there.”

The Mavericks are now in a maybe impossible hole in these NBA Finals, after almost crawling all the way out of a big one before Doncic fouled out. They had a 22-2 run that began not long after his first foul of the quarter, and ended soon after he was sitting on the bench.

This is the 157th time a team has lost the first three games in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series. None of them has ever come back to win the series and only four have even forced a Game 7 — and the only time that happened in the NBA Finals was in 1951 by the New York Knicks.

Doncic had 27 points despite going only 1 of 7 on 3-pointers before he fouled out for only the third time in his six NBA seasons — 400 regular-season games and 51 more in the playoffs. He had never had four fouls in the same quarter before his whistle-plagued 7 1/2-minute span.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks on as referee...

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks on as referee John Conley (79) gives a review on a play against the Boston Celtics during the second half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Dallas. Doncic fouled out in the fourth quarter. Credit: AP/Sam Hodde

“I mean, I don't know. We couldn’t play physical. I don’t know. I don’t want to say nothing,” Doncic said.

“You know, six fouls in the NBA Finals, basically I’m like this," he said, motioning with his palms held out. “C’mon, man. Better than that.”

Brown missed a 13-foot shot after the replay challenge, and the Mavericks — who had charged out to a 22-9 lead in the first 6:12 of the game — got a 17-foot jumper from Kyrie Irving to get within 93-92 with 3:37 left. That was the closest they got before Brown tipped in a miss by Jayson Tatum.

Doncic's sixth foul came only 26 seconds after his fifth, also a play involving Brown when it appeared the Celtics guard may have hooked Doncic.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic heads to the lockers after...

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic heads to the lockers after Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Dallas. The Celtics won 106-99. Credit: AP/Sam Hodde

“Yeah, it looked ... looks can be deceiving,” Kidd said.

There was no challenge then, but Kidd certainly had to try on the next one in an effort to keep Doncic in the game.

“I was stuck. I had to challenge it,” Kidd said. “Had to challenge because it was a close call. But the referee called it a foul. Got to move on, move forward.”

Game 4 is Friday night, and the Mavericks have to win just to send the series back to Boston.

“It’s not over till it’s over. We just got to believe. Like I always say, it’s first to four,” Doncic said. “We’re going to stay together. We lose together, we win together. So we got to stay together.”

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