Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 90, Celtics 85
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
Dirk Nowitzki converted an old-fashioned, three-point play, floating in a layup in traffic while getting fouled on a powerful drive to the basket with 5.1 seconds remaining for the decisive points. Jason Terry scored seven points in the final three minutes for a team-high 18 points, while Nowitzki kicked in 16 points to pace the balanced Mavericks (who also got 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals over 34 minutes from old friend Delonte West). Rajon Rondo did his best to carry Boston, chipping in 24 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals, but got little help from his Big 3 brethren as both Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (combined 16 points) really struggled to get going.
The Mavericks opened the fourth quarter with an eight-point cushion (thanks in large part to a 13-1 run late in the third quarter that helped Dallas open as much as a 13-point advantage), but the Celtics erased their deficit over the first nine minutes of the frame and consecutive buckets by Rondo knotted the game at 77 with 6:04 to go. The Celtics had three opportunities to pull ahead, but couldn't get a bucket. Terry made it hurt, drilling an open 3-pointer with 3:15 to play, then walking in for an uncontested layup and an 84-79 lead with 2:42 to play. The Celtics still managed to tie the game at 85 thanks to Paul Pierce's late arrival, but Nowitzki's heroics sealed it after Boston fumbled away a chance to tie the game on the ensuing possession.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Celtics got outscored in second-chance points 17-0 by the Mavs, who turned 12 offensive rebounds into key points. Boston, meanwhile, generated a measly two offensive boards.
Veteran swingman Mickael Pietrus made his season debut for Boston after spending the last two weeks rehabbing his right knee following offseason surgery and provided 17 quality minutes off the bench. Pietrus gave the Celtics a big lift defensively and also kicked in five points on 2-of-5 shooting (missing three of the four 3-pointers he put up). Pietrus added two steals and a rebound, but looked certifiably gassed when he came out midway through the fourth quarter after helping the Celtics tie the game.
WHAT IT MEANS
Nine games in and Boston still owns no victories over playoff-caliber teams. Despite a four-day break before Wednesday's game -- and the fact that the Mavericks were coming off a back-to-back in Detroit -- the Celtics watched the defending champs come up with the big plays in crunch time. The schedule doesn't get any easier with Chicago (Friday) and Oklahoma City (Monday) scheduled for visits (and a trip to Indiana on Saturday). Boston drops below .500 again at 4-5 and still can't put together a full 48-minute effort.
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