Postgame notes: Mavericks 99, Celtics 90

BOSTON -- A collection of postgame notes after the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Boston Celtics 99-90 Monday night at TD Garden:

Pierce: Knee 'didn't bother me'

Celtics captain Paul Pierce, who endured a scary collision with Shelden Williams at Sunday's practice, said his right knee felt fine following Monday's loss to the Mavericks.

Pierce erupted for 11 first-quarter points and finished with a team-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting over 35 minutes.

"It felt good, just banged it," said Pierce. "It was just a normal bang in practice. It really didn't bother me tonight."

Added Celtics coach Doc Rivers before Monday's game: "It's just a ding. We've still got to get [the knee] stronger, obviously, but that'll just take some time."

Pierce missed five games spanning into January after a pair of procedures to drain his right knee while battling an infection. He returned Jan. 6 in Miami and has logged hefty minutes recently, but got a scare when he crumpled to the floor Sunday after banging his knee into Williams' shin at the end of the practice session.

Pierce appeared no worse for the wear during Monday's loss and, after the game, he expressed more concern about the team's recent struggles on its home turf than his knee.

"We've got to understand, we are a defensive team first," said Pierce. "Regardless of who we put on the floor, at the end of the night, regardless of if we shoot the ball well or not, we are a defensive team. And that's what we have to continue to understand with the guys that are out there. That's something that is never going to change about this team. Right now we are playing in spurts defensively; it's going to be tough if we don't start to develop some consistency on that end of the court.

"It's just not a consistent night for a team to come into your building and shoot 50 or 60 percent."

Doc's Opinion: 'Mental toughness not good'

Everything that Rivers liked about his team in opening a nine-point halftime advantage disappeared in the second half of Monday's loss to the Mavericks.

"I told our guys, I thought our mental focus and our mental toughness right now is not very good," said Rivers. "I thought the game plan in the first half was perfect. Get back in transition, contest shots, and start inside-to-outside. Second half, I thought our defense was horrendous. I didn't think we got back at all on defense.

"They had numbers every single time. We had our guards crashing the glass, trying to get offensive glass, our bigs complaining to refs. They beat us down the floor. And they scored. And then all of a sudden it became a walk-the-ball-up-the-floor, slow-down basketball game -- but one way. Then on the other side they were running it back down our throats. So I thought we had 24 minutes of focus, and it's tough to win a game that way against a quality team."

Rivers stressed that the impending return of Kevin Garnett will help, but that alone won't turn around the Celtics' troubles.

"Even if it does [fix the problem], everybody has to have better mental focus," said Rivers. "It can't be one guy. His voice will be back, but his actions have to return as well."

Opposing View: Big 'D' for Dallas

While the Celtics lamented their defensive collapse, the Mavericks celebrated a second-half effort that saw them limit Boston to 40 points while rallying from a nine-point halftime deficit.

"The defense really keyed everything," said coach Rick Carlisle. "We had good transitions and good looks. Dirk [Nowitzki] got loose, [Shawn] Marion got to the rim, [Jason] Kidd was spectacular. I thought a real key to the game was Jason Terry. He really struggled when he first got in there, he didn’t get any good shots, but he stayed patient and he hit three huge shots for us in the fourth quarter at really key times. I just thought that the balance that we were able to keep was key."

Said Nowitzki, whose offense helped propel the Mavericks late in the third quarter, "We talked about our defense, or our lack of defensive effort over the past two weeks. I think we really started the season off well, defensively, and I think we had a couple of setbacks over the past couple of weeks. Teams shoot high percentages and scored a lot of points against us, and I think, with this team, it starts defensively. We did a great job in the second half, we just gave up 40 points, forced some shots, stuck with their shooters, and our offense finally came to us. But it always starts on the defensive end for us, and that's what won us the game."

Nowitzki scored nine consecutive points for Dallas during a 15-3 run to end the third quarter. Appropriately, Kidd, who piled up a game-high 17 assists, dished the credit to the hot shooter for cranking up that stat total.

"Dirk putting the ball in the basket helps," said Kidd. "But just running the pick and roll, running the offense, knowing who is going to be there and guys putting the ball in the basket are big things. I had the ball a lot today and I felt comfortable in making the right decision."

Wallace not happy with calls

Celtics forward Rasheed Wallace, who missed the past three games with a sore left forefoot, returned Monday night, but was limited to 35 minutes more because of foul trouble than the injury.

Wallace played stellar defense against Nowitzki in the first half, and Rivers said it was Wallace's ability to both get physical under the basket and pull Nowtizki to the wing that slowed down Dallas' sharpshooter in the first half.

But when Wallace picked up his fourth personal on an offensive foul call with 5:16 to play in the third quarter, that's when Nowitzki and the Mavericks went to work.

After the game, Wallace dubbed the calls "bogus" and used some other terms unfit for this space. But he also admitted that the Celtics have to be mentally tough enough to overcome those calls -- and they weren't Monday.

Wallace finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting with three rebounds.

Loose balls

A couple postgame thoughts from the Celtics' locker room:

Glen Davis: "Dirk’s a great player. He did some great things today, hit some big shots. He got going in the third, hit four or five straight. The fourth foul with Rasheed really hurt us because Rasheed was doing a great job playing defense on him. So the calls didn’t go our way, and also we’re not playing to our full potential and it hurts us.”

Ray Allen: "I think offensively we put them in transition. The one thing, we turned the ball over in a stretch where we're playing strong-side basketball and we're not getting in the paint. They're forcing us out on the perimeter and then they got a [3-pointer] in transition, or they got a couple of layups and dunks. There was a stretch where we didn't get back at all and they had us playing on our heels. One side of the ball affects the other."

Celtics center Kendrick Perkins needed two stitches to close a gash under his right eye sustained after an inadvertant elbow from Nowitzki. Perkins returned to the game in the third quarter sporting a bandage under his right eye, but still logged a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn was honored with the inaugural Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the NBA Coaches Association. Check out this photo from the JumboTron with Rivers joining Heinsohn on the court to receive the award.