Zion Williamson has been cleared to return to play without any restrictions.

The New Orleans Pelicans star did not play a single game this season due to a foot fracture as his team reached the playoffs through the play-in tournament, before losing 4-2 to the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

Williamson has been troubled by fitness issues throughout his NBA career, and the former first overall pick returned to full team activities in late November, only to suffer further setbacks.

However, the Pelicans confirmed on Thursday that the 21-year-old is finally able to return without restrictions, saying via a statement: "The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that recent imaging of Zion Williamson's right fifth metatarsal showed continued improvement.

"Williamson has been cleared in his return to play progression without any restrictions."

In the 2020-21 season, Williamson averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds from 61 games, and scored more than 20 in each of his last 15 games before getting injured just over a year ago.

Williamson is eligible for a five-year, $181million max rookie extension ahead of the 2022-23 season, and he will not think twice if that offer comes from the Pelicans, recently saying: "Of course, I couldn't sign it fast enough."

Jimmy Butler is confident the Miami Heat can turn things around after falling 3-2 behind to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami must now win back-to-back games after slumping to a 93-80 loss on Wednesday, despite having taken a 42-37 half-time lead.

Boston can seal the series on home court on Friday, but Butler is determined to take it to a Game 7 decider on Sunday.

"Besides the fact that anything is possible, we know what we are capable of," he said.

"We know we can play some really good basketball, and we know that we are going to play some really good basketball.

"It's going to have to start in this next game up in Boston. But I just think that we know that we can win."

Butler left Game 3 early with a knee problem and has since been 7-of-32 from the field in consecutive losses.

However, he was in no mood to make excuses for his poor showing.

"It doesn't matter; if I'm out there, I've got to do better," he said. "I've got to find a way to help us win, and I haven't been doing that.

"I'm fine. My knee is okay. I've just got to do better. It's no excuse."

Team-mate Kyle Lowry struck a similarly defiant tone as he sought to issue a rallying call ahead of a crunch clash in Boston.

"We have to continue to just keep working," Lowry said.

"It's the first to four, so we have to go into a hostile environment, and it will be amped up, but I like what our team can do.

"I like the opportunity that we have, and we've got to go in there and fight."

Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown insisted his side will continue to win games with their defense after defeating the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday.

The Celtics recovered from a disappointing first half to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, setting up a chance to clinch the series and an NBA Finals berth on their home floor.

Boston scored only 37 points in the first half, shooting 25 per cent from beyond the three-point arc, but only trailed by five points at the main interval.

Brown asserted that their defence is critical in limiting the damage when they are not clicking on the offensive end, keeping the team in games.

"Our defence is key," he said after the win. "Every night we come out and hang our hat on that side of the ball. It was great to have, even in a limited role, Marcus [Smart] and Rob [Williams III], to be able to be out there, because their presence on that side of the ball is felt.

"Every night we give ourselves a chance with our defence. We didn't play great in the first half but we only gave up 42 points. Kept us in the game, we were down five, got settled in the second half and the game opened up and it was over from there.

"Our defence is what continues to win us games and we've got to keep hanging our hat on that defensive side of the ball."

In what has been a primarily defensive series, Game 5 was no different, with Miami generating a great amount of offensive impact from their defensive stops.

Brown was a prominent figure in that regard, coughing up four of Boston's 10 turnovers for the half as the team shot 38.2 per cent from the floor.

The 25-year-old took over in the second half, however, not turning the ball over once while scoring 19 points off eight-of-12 shooting.

Post-game, he said there was little variation in approach, despite a dressing down in the first half from Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

"We knew if we took care of the basketball, we would get some open opportunities and knock them down," Brown said. "Just continue to play basketball and be aggressive, that's why basketball is 48 minutes.

"I think he [Udoka] was talking to the whole team. I wasn't the only person to have some turnovers but it is what it is. I'm going to keep being aggressive, keep getting into the paint and making them stop me.

"Miami do a really good job of slapping down, reaching and grabbing and making it tough for you, so it's a little bit of both. I've got to do a better job for sure, but overall as a team, we've got to do a better job too."

The Boston Celtics claimed critical home-court advantage and a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, earning a gritty 93-80 Game 5 win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

In all four quarters the Celtics held the Heat to 23 points or fewer, but the offensive side of the ball was also far from clicking early on.

The Heat led 19-17 at quarter-time and after winning the second frame 23-20, they held an incredibly low-scoring 42-37 lead at the long break.

In the first half, both teams shot under 39 per cent from the field and 26 per cent from three-point range, but the Heat were winning the physical battle on the boards, pulling in nine offensive rebounds to just two for the Celtics.

The two teams also combined for just six fast-break points in the first half, illustrating the slow, grinding pace of play as both defences locked in, forcing better ball and man movement.

Back in Game 1, also in Miami, the Heat who came out of the locker room for the third quarter and went on a rampage to swing that game, but this time the shoe was on the other foot.

The Celtics doubled up the Heat in the third period, winning it 32-16 as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford found rhythm on the offensive end.

Boston led 69-58 after three quarters, and extended that lead to 23 points in the opening minutes of the final frame, as Brown knocked down three big triples.

After a first half where he was the subject of plenty of criticism for his loose ball handling – with four first-half turnovers – Brown made the difference after half-time, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting and five-of-nine from long range. He also had no turnovers in the second half, and the biggest dunk of the game.

Jayson Tatum was also at his playmaking best, with 22 points on a mediocre seven-of-20 shooting, but he added 12 rebounds and nine assists, consistently creating opportunities for shooters off the dribble and showing advanced ability to make reads as play unfolded.

The real story of the Celtics' success was their ability to take away the three-point line for the Heat, though.

With Jimmy Butler's jump shots not falling – finishing with 13 points on four-of-18 shooting – Miami simply had no avenue to reliable outside scoring.

The Celtics' ability to chase hard over the top of screens and dribble hand-offs made life miserable for Max Strus and Duncan Robinson, taking away their catch-and-shoot opportunities and turning them into dribblers, far outside their comfort zones. 

Strus finished zero-of-nine from the field, missing all seven of his three-point attempts, while Robinson was four-of-12, including three-of-10 from long range. As a team, the Heat were just seven-of-45 (15 per cent) from beyond the arc.

Instead, the Celtics dared the Heat to beat them inside, banking on the stoutness of their terrific interior defensive duo of Horford and Robert Williams III. That pairing combined for 17 rebounds, five blocks, two steals and just one foul.

Game 6 will head back to Boston, meaning the first-seeded Heat need to win on the road to save their season and force a Game 7.

The Boston Celtics will receive a big boost for their crucial Game 5 clash against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, with Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart returning to the line-up.

Smart missed Game 4 after suffering an awkward ankle injury in Game 3. 

Adding to the Heat's problems is the fact that Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro will not return for Game 5, having not recovered from the groin strain that also kept him out of Game 4.

With each side missing one of their key players, the Celtics were buoyed by the performance of backup point guard Derrick White, who posted a handy stat-line of 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in his first start since missing Game 2 for the birth of his child.

White's performance – especially on the defensive end – will likely cement his position in the rotation above fellow bench guard Payton Pritchard as Smart returns to the equation.

On the other side, it was Victor Oladipo shining off the bench as he tried to fill Herro's shoes, with the former All-Star scoring 18 of the Heat's first 28 points in Game 4, going on to finish with 23 points, six assists and four rebounds. 

He also had a plus/minus of plus four from his 30 minutes, meaning the Celtics won the 18 minutes he was off the floor by 24 points.

Game 6 will head back to Boston on Friday, before a potential Game 7 back in Miami, if required.

Stephen Curry applauded Steve Kerr for his frank pre-game comments following a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.

At a scheduled news conference before the Golden State Warriors' 119-109 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, an emotional Kerr called into question a lack of action from United States senators on the sale, presence and usage of firearms.

A moment of silence was then observed inside the American Airlines Center ahead of the tip-off, but Kerr had said: "I am sorry, I am tired of the moments of silence. Enough!"

Following the defeat, Curry explained basketball had been put in perspective as he stood in support of his coach, whose father was murdered in the university where he worked in Beirut in 1984.

"I appreciate his leadership," Curry said post-game. "It was on everybody's mind coming into the game. It's kind of hard to stay focused on going out and playing basketball, knowing what happened in this state.

"I got kids, send them to school every day, drop them off, and you feel for the parents that are going through what they're going through.

"I can't even imagine the pain, so for coach to come up here and say what he said – and every word that he said was powerful and meaningful – I accept that challenge of using my voice and platform to hopefully make change. You can tell what it meant to him. I appreciate his leadership on that one.

"You come in, and the perspective is, 'this is what we do', so you know how to kind of use your routine to get you ready. Obviously your mind wanders from time to time but especially in the moment of silence before the game."

The Warriors started slowly and were down by as much as 29 points at one stage, before the second unit got the game back to within single-digits with less than five minutes remaining.

While praising the Mavericks on their victory, Kerr conceded it was hard to get his team ready pre-game.

"It was sort of an unspoken awareness of what happened today, and it was a very quiet locker room beforehand," he said.

"I felt like as a coach, my job is to get the team ready to play. It was difficult to sort of keep perspective on a day like today, but that's the shock and the grief, the anger that's there for all of our guys, and I'm sure everybody in the building."  

Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd hailed Luka Doncic after his starring role in their Game 4 win over the Golden State Warriors having been named in the All-NBA first team earlier on Tuesday.

Doncic had a near triple-double with 30 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists as the Mavericks won 119-109 over the Warriors to avoid a clean sweep.

Earlier in the day, Doncic had been named alongside Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker in the All-NBA first team for the third time in his career.

"I don’t think anybody is surprised that he's first team but it's really cool," Kidd told reporters.

"It shows the talent level. The other four are pretty talented too. It shows where he's going, his growth."

Kidd was full of praise for Doncic, who also had two steals and two blocks in Game 4, playing a key role in the fourth quarter to ward off the Warriors' late charge.

"What he does for this team is incredible, not just points and assists, but being able to rebound the ball," Kidd said.

"At the end, he came up with a nice little blocked shot to pad his defensive stats. He's our leader. When he goes, we go. He loves that stage.

"Being first team with the other four, it's a great honour for him."

Doncic, 23, was delighted with the accolade, which comes for the third straight season, having joined the Mavs in 2018.

"It's a blessing," Doncic told reporters. "As a kid I only dreamed of being in the NBA, and now it's my third All-NBA team.

"It's a blessing. I'm really happy and thankful to everybody that made it happen."

Doncic was also hopeful about the Mavericks in the Conference Finals despite history being against his side, who trail the Warriors 3-1.

Tuesday's win was the Mavs' fourth in franchise history in a Game 4 when facing a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series, losing Game 5 on the previous three occasions. Golden State has led 10 playoff series 3-0 in the past, sweeping six and winning in five on four occasions.

"I still believe we can win," Doncic said when asked if he was relieved to avoid a sweep.

"Swept or not swept, in the end, if you lose, you lose. It doesn’t matter how many you win, but we have to go game by game. We're going to believe until the end."

The Dallas Mavericks forced a Game 5 in the Western Conference Finals after holding off the fast-finishing Golden State Warriors, winning Game 4 119-109 on Tuesday.

Luka Doncic scored a team-high 30 points for the Mavs, including a crucial fourth-quarter dunk after the Warriors closed within eight points with 3:23 to play.

The Slovenian was one assist away from a triple-double, with 14 rebounds and nine assists along with two steals and two blocks, shooting 10-of-26 from the field.

The Mavericks shot 20-of-43 three-pointers for the game to stave off elimination, with Dorian Finney-Smith contributing 23 points and Reggie Bullock adding 18 points with six triples.

Dallas, who trailed 3-0 in the series coming into Game 4, led by as much as 29 points after dominating the middle quarters before the Warriors stormed home with a 39-20 final quarter.

Golden State's bench players led the fightback, with Jonathan Kuminga scoring 17 points, but Stephen Curry was their top scorer in the game, with 20 points.

Fifteen of Curry's 20 points came in the first half, while he also had five rebounds, eight assists and one steal.

The Warriors shot 10-of-28 from beyond the arc, with Curry only managing two-of-five from three-point range, while Klay Thompson went two-of-six for his 12 points.

After the Mavs led 62-47 at half-time, the game was delayed for 16 minutes in the third quarter after heavy rain in Dallas leaked onto the American Airlines Center court from the roof.

Dallas would hold on, marking the fourth time they have won Game 4 when facing a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series, losing Game 5 on the previous three occasions.

Golden State has led 10 playoff series 3-0 in the past, sweeping six and winning in five on four occasions. 

Game 5 will take place in San Francisco on Thursday.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was in no mood to talk about the playoffs on Tuesday and instead delivered a desperate plea against gun violence following the latest mass shooting in the United States.

Kerr was attending his usual pre-game news conference prior to Game 4 of the Conference Finals between the Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks and started by declaring he would not discuss basketball.

The Warriors head coach, whose father was shot dead in a terrorist attack in Beirut in 1984, instead spoke about the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday where at least 19 students and two adults were killed.

Kerr, who was visibly emotional, directed his anger at senators for refusing to pass legislation requiring background checks on people before their purchase of firearms.

"Any basketball questions don’t matter. Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed, 400 miles from here and a teacher," Kerr told reporters, before banging his hands on the table and yelling: "When are we going to do something?

"I'm tired. I am so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I am tired of the moments of silence. Enough!

"There's 50 senators right now who refuse to vote on H.R.8, which is a background check rule that the House passed a couple of years ago that's been sitting there for two years. There's a reason they won't vote on it, to hold on to power.

"I ask you [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence, the school shootings and the supermarket shootings, I ask you are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of children and our elderly and our church-goers. That's what it looks like."

Kerr called for fans to deeply consider the victims and not desensitise themselves to another mass shooting, with the game still to be played.

"We can't get numb to this," Kerr said.

"We can't sit here and just read about it and go 'well let's have a moment of silence, go Dubs'. 'C'mon Mavs, let's go'."

Erik Spoelstra has no doubt the Miami Heat can inflict the sort of brutal defeat that the Boston Celtics doled out in Game 4 as the Eastern Conference Finals heads towards its climax.

A 102-82 loss in Boston on Monday night came on the back of Miami scoring a trifling 11 points in the first quarter, with Jimmy Butler scoring just six points all night and no Heat starter reaching double figures.

The visitors shot just 33.3 per cent from the field (30 of 90), with Boston's win squaring the series at 2-2 and setting up Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday evening as a pivotal occasion.

Coach Spoelstra said: "More than anything, our offense really hurt us at the beginning. They weren't getting the sort of purposeful execution that you need to on the road. [Boston] were able to get some relief points from that and get to the free-throw line. They did a better job of getting into us and rotating guys into the paint."

It was 57-33 by the halfway mark, and Spoelstra admitted the Heat simply failed to ignite. Yet he says Miami can swiftly set the game aside and dominate the next time the teams meet on court, saying it would not surprise him if the tables are turned.

"We've got guys that love these kinds of moments, the playoffs. You've just got to stay together," Spoelstra said.

"This is part of the playoffs. There are these extreme highs and lows, a lot of emotion. You just have to stay the course, stay together. What you're looking at is a great series. It's 2-2. You have to embrace that. Hopefully this competition beings out the absolute best in all of us.

"They got the best of us tonight. We'll take this hit and then get to Miami and get ready for Game 5. Whatever they have done to us, we can do to them."

Jayson Tatum led Boston with 31 points. The Celtics led by 32 points at one stage before Miami began to claw back the deficit late on.

"We're not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight, for sure," said Spoelstra.

Jayson Tatum never doubted himself after a poor Game 3 performance, returning to a starring role as the Boston Celtics dominated the Miami Heat 102-82 in Game 4.

The Celtics had their backs to the wall in the latest tussle of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the threat of heading back to Miami for Game 5 trailing 3-1, but they made sure it was not a nervous night for the Boston faithful.

Derrick White – returning to the starting line-up after the birth of his son – started in place of the injured Marcus Smart and scored the first seven points, kick-starting a 26-4 run to open the game.

The Celtics defense proved to be immense, holding the visitors to just 42 points with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Eleven first-quarter points also set a new record for the Heat's worst offensive first quarter in any playoff game in their history.

After only scoring 10 points in Game 3, Tatum responded in fine fashion, racking up a team-high 31 points on eight-of-16 shooting, hitting 14-of-16 free throws, while adding eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

Speaking later, Tatum highlighted the confidence he has in his ability, despite how dark things can get immediately following a painful loss.

"Right after it's tough," he said. "You're frustrated with how you played, knowing how important this time of year is, and feeling like you let your team-mates down.

"But I think I do a really good job of sleeping it off – regardless of if I have 10 points or 46 points – the next day is the next day, and whatever happened, happened.

"Obviously I was ready to get back to playing, but I didn't doubt myself – I know how to play basketball.

"Regardless of how many points I score, [it's about] just trying to come out and help us get a win. That's most important."

With the series now tied at 2-2, Tatum called it "a new series", but he stressed his side need to bring the same intensity after a win, as opposed to just after crushing losses.

"It's 2-2 – it's kind of like a new series, a best-of-three," Tatum said.

"Human nature plays a part in [the swings in the series]. When you win a game, you can relax a little bit, but obviously when we lose a game, we feel like the next game is do-or-die, and then we come out and play how we did.

"We need to have that mindset going into Game 5 – it is a must-win game – and tonight was essentially something like that. Everybody knew it, we could all feel it, and I think it showed with the way we came out."

When asked if he enjoyed sitting out the fourth quarter after clocking 117 minutes across the first three games of the series, Tatum said: "It was extremely nice – especially because we were winning."

Celtics coach Ime Udoka made sure to highlight the efforts of White after he finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.

"He checks so many boxes for us, it's not only things that show up on the stat sheet," Udoka said.

"He's the guy that moves the ball very well, defends extremely well, multiple positions… I couldn't be more happy with him being here, and what he brings to this team."

Udoka touched on what it will take to come out on top in this series, echoing Tatum's sentiments about bringing the same intensity after a win.

"Our mindset was right coming out, we came out with the right physicality and focus," he said. "We've just got to muster that same energy when we're coming off a win, as well as a loss.

"It wasn't our best offensive night, but defensively, obviously we were elite tonight, for the most part.

"We've got room to grow still, that's the thing with us, and we can always rely on our defense. We've won several games doing that this year when our shots aren't falling.

"To hold them in the 30s for basically three quarters, it's high-level defense.

"We can do that even if our shots are not falling, it's mainly about taking care of the ball, not letting them get anything easy, and kind of wearing on them mentally."

After Game 5 in Miami, Game 6 will head back to Boston, with a potential Game 7 to be played in Miami, if required.

The Boston Celtics smothered the Miami Heat all night on the way to a 102-82 victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

With the win, the Celtics evened the series at 2-2, and are still yet to lose back-to-back games this postseason. 

It all started on the defensive end for Boston, playing in front of their raucous home fans, as the Heat missed their first 14 field goal attempts.

The Celtics led 29-11 at quarter time – after leading 26-4 at one stage – marking the fewest first-quarter points ever scored by a Heat team in the playoffs. They shot three-for-20 from the field.

Victor Oladipo tried to ignite the Heat off the bench, scoring 18 of their first 28 points, but it was a historically bad showing from Miami's starting line-up, made even worse by the fact Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro was out injured.

With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Heat trailed 73-42, leading to their starters getting benched for the final frame. Their five starters combined to score 18 points and shoot seven-for-38 (18 per cent) from the field.

For Boston, Jayson Tatum was terrific, scoring 24 of his 31 points in the first half, finishing up with shooting figures of eight-of-16 from the field and 14-of-16 from the free throw line.

The big-man combination of Al Horford and Robert Williams III was also game-changing, as the duo combined for 22 rebounds and six blocks, while Derrick White also shined in his first game since becoming a father.

White missed Game 3 for the birth of his child, and after scoring no more than nine points since Game 4 of the Celtics series against the Milwaukee Bucks, he had 10 points in the first quarter as he started in the place of the injured Marcus Smart.

He went on to finish with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a blocked shot.

Game 5 will head back to Miami with plenty on the line. Throughout NBA history, when a series has been tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 82 per cent of the time – although the Celtics bucked that trend last round.

Tyler Herro will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, but the Miami Heat are hopeful Jimmy Butler will face the Boston Celtics on Monday.

Herro sustained a groin injury during the Heat's 109-103 Game 3 win and will play no part as Miami attempt to take a 3-1 lead at TD Garden.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said: "We just had to be responsible and take the decision out of his hands.

"He really wants to be out there tonight. The trainers and Dr. [Harlan] Selesnick don't think that's the best idea just because of the intensity and everything, but we'll see.

"He's young, we'll treat him day-to-day, and we'll see what happens from here."

Butler has been suffering with inflammation of his left knee, but will warm up with the intention of playing in Game 4.

Spoelstra is also hoping Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain), Max Strus (right hamstring strain), P.J. Tucker (left knee irritation) and Gabe Vincent (left hamstring strain) will feature.

Celtic trio Jayson Tatum (stinger), Marcus Smart (sprained ankle) and Robert Williams III are listed as probable.

Luka Doncic said he is "still learning", with his 40-point haul not enough to prevent the Dallas Mavericks from going 3-0 down in the Western Conference Finals series to the Golden State Warriors.

The 109-100 defeat in American Airlines Center means the Mavs have the unlikely task of needing to win the next four games in a row to make the NBA finals.

Doncic top scored in the game, while also making 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks, but felt he did not play well enough in the first half.

Spencer Dinwiddie (26) and Jalen Brunson (20) offered assistance but the hosts just could not keep up with the Warriors, with Stephen Curry coming away with 31 points and 11 assists.

"I'm still learning," Doncic said after the game. "I think the first two quarters, I played very bad. That's on me. But I'm still learning. I think after this season is done, whatever we are, I think we're going to look back and learn a lot of things.

"It's my first time in the Conference Finals in the NBA. I'm 23, man. I'm still learning a lot."

Despite Doncic's concerns about the first two quarters, it was the third where the game got away from Dallas, with the Warriors extending their half-time lead of one point to 10 points by the start of the fourth quarter.

However, the Slovenian praised the Warriors for their form and credited their development as a team over recent years.

"I think the Warriors are playing incredible," he added. "Everybody knows their role. Everybody just stays together.

"They're a long-built team. They've been together for a long time, and I think they're playing good basketball, so that's what I think is going to be really difficult. And these past three games, it's been very difficult."

Mavs head coach Jason Kidd offered similar thoughts, and insisted his team are just at the start of their "journey".

"This is just the beginning of this journey," Kidd said. "I know you guys had us winning the championship before the season started, and that's a joke if you didn't get it. But this is a lot bigger than just this one game or this one series. This is huge for our franchise because none of you guys had us here.

"So it's cool to go through this, and we're going against... you can call them a dynasty. They have three great players who will be hall of famers, and this is a great lesson learned from us.

"This isn't the end. This is just the beginning."

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