Celtics Come Up Short in Road Tilt With Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks

Celtics Come Up Short in Road Tilt With Dirk Nowitzki, MavericksFinal: Mavs 89, Celtics 87. Kevin Garnett misses a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer, and that's all she wrote. The Celtics have come up short against the Mavs, losing in dramatic fashion on the final possession.

All the credit in the world is due to Dirk Nowitzki, who carries the Mavs in crunch time, including the eventual game-winner with 17 seconds left. Dirk finishes with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists for the Mavs, who improve to 4-2 on the season.

The Celtics let an incredible night from Rajon Rondo go to waste. The young Boston point guard finishes with 11 points, 15 assists, six rebounds, five steals and a block in the loss. Garnett drops 18 points and 15 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.

The C's fall to 6-2. They've got two days off before a big showdown Thursday night against the Miami Heat.

Fourth quarter, 1.5 seconds, Mavs 89-87: The Celtics appear to have lost the game on a pair of missed jumpers from Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, but Jason Terry fouls Allen in the final seconds. The Celtics will get one last shot.

Fourth quarter, 17.4 seconds, Mavs 89-87: Kevin Garnett misses an inside shot with two guys in his face — and on the other end, the Mavs come right back and get an open jumper for Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs have the lead, and it's up to Paul Pierce and the Celtics to make one shot in the final possession to force overtime.

Time for the C's to come through in the clutch.

Fourth quarter, 1:13, 87-87: Jason Terry hits the biggest shot of the game, a wing 3 to tie the game with 1:13 left. Doc Rivers needs a timeout.

Paul Pierce has had a big night, but it'd be even bigger if he stepped up and hit another shot in the final minute to put the C's over the top.

Fourth quarter, 2:13, Celtics 85-82: Another bucket from Rondo. This has shaped into a superb night for the Celtics' point guard — 11 points, 15 assists, five rebounds, five steals and a block.

Now he's got to get the Celtics to string together a couple more stops. Dirk Nowitzki isn't going to die quietly. The C's have to work for this one.

Fourth quarter, 3:13, Celtics 83-80: The Celtics snap a 6-0 Dallas run with a Kevin Garnett steal, a nice pass downcourt, and a solid finish from Rajon Rondo, who draws the foul.

Rondo finishes the three-point play. The Celtics are back up three with just over three minutes to play.

Fourth quarter, 5:07, Celtics 80-78: The Mavericks are alive again. Dirk Nowitzki lofts an elbow jumper up over Big Baby Davis, and it falls. The Celtics' lead has shrunk to two.

And just like that, 19,200 fans in Dallas awoke from a coma.

Fourth quarter, 7:23, Celtics 80-74: Kevin Garnett throws down a monster jam off of a Rondo lob, and he lingers on the rim for a couple seconds, just to drive the point home.

The crowd in Dallas is pretty deflated right now. The Celtics have destroyed the Mavs in this second half.

Fourth quarter, 8:55, Celtics 75-74: A Rondo steal tipped to Marquis Daniels ignites a Boston fast break. Quis gets the basket, the foul, and a technical from J.J. Barea.

The Celtics need to maintain two things to keep this lead: their effort and their composure. At the end of a long, difficult road back-to-back, that's never easy.

Fourth quarter, 9:58, Mavs 72-71: Brendan Haywood and Kevin Garnett exchange baskets to open the fourth quarter. They also nearly exchange blows.

Tempers are flaring now. Both sides are getting heated. They want this game bad.

End of third quarter, Mavs 70-69: It's a big quarter for the Big Three. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett all step up in the third for the C's, who outscore the Mavs 29-20 in the quarter get back into the game.

Pierce now leads all scorers with 22 points. The C's will look to their captain in the fourth quarter to lead them to a gutsy road victory.

Third quarter, 2:41, Celtics 64-61: The Celtics are hitting their shots like there's no tomorrow in this third quarter. First Ray Allen knocks down a wing 3, then Kevin Garnett hits a fadeaway in the waning seconds of the shot clock. The Celtics have themselves a three-point lead.

KG has 12 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season. He's locked in on both ends of the floor. He wants this one.

Third quarter, 4:41, 57-57: Who said the Celtics couldn't play well in the second half? The C's are on a 21-5 run, and they've tied the game.

Paul Pierce now has 19 points for the Celtics, who have stormed back to reclaim control of this game.

Third quarter, 6:56, Mavs 55-49: One noticeable improvement for the Celtics defensively in this third quarter: Dirk Nowitzki can't do anything without running into a crowd of defenders.

Given the way Dirk has torched the Celtics over the last two seasons, that's a big development for the C's defensively.

The Celtics are starting to chip away. Doc Rivers must have woken these guys up in the locker room at halftime.

Third quarter, 8:53, Mavs 52-47: The Celtics' execution looks much better in the second half. They're working together, they're sharing the ball, and they're getting good looks at the basket.

There's a chance for these C's yet. But they've still got to work harder defensively.

Third quarter, 11:01, Mavs 50-43: Paul Pierce knocks down a 3 to open the second half. The C's will need a lot more big shots from their captain to stage a comeback here.

A couple more jumpers and a couple stops, and the Celtics can make a game of this yet. But they've got to find a way to slow down the Mavs' inside game. Jermaine O'Neal needs to step up.

Halftime, Mavs 50-40: The only good news is for Boston is that Tyson Chandler didn't quite make it to a double-double before halftime.

The Mavs' center finishes the first half with 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting clip, nine rebounds and three blocks. He's absolutely killing a Celtics team that has no answer for an athletic 7-footer inside.

The Celtics are tired and banged up. And they're playing like it.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Juan Barea have nine points each for the Mavericks. Paul Pierce has 10 points for Boston; Rajon Rondo's putting together a solid all-around night with six points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block.

Second quarter, 3:35, Mavs 46-34: The Mavericks' size has just been overwhelming in this matchup. Tyson Chandler is just killing the C's inside — Boston's center has either been Jermaine O'Neal (banged up) or Glen Davis (too small). Not cutting it.

The C's need to start stringing some stops together, but that can't happen if the C's don't have any presence inside.

Chandler now has eight points, seven rebounds and a block. Monster night for him.

Second quarter, 6:30, Mavs 40-30: Jason Terry gets the 3 and the foul from former teammate Marquis Daniels. The Mavs stretch their lead to double digits with the four-point play.

The C's second unit has been terrible tonight. No energy, no defense, no decision-making skills on the offensive end.

Second quarter, 8:52, Mavs 31-25: The Celtics now have seven turnovers. Doc Rivers has to give his guys a talking-to. There's no way the C's can win this game if these execution problems keep up.

Nate Robinson is trying to take over the game for the Celtics' second unit. That won't work unless he shoots a better percentage and takes better care of the basketball.

Second quarter, 10:46, Mavs 27-21: J.J. Barea has scored Dallas' last nine points, including three on a ridiculous 29-foot jumper to beat the final buzzer of the first quarter.

His career high is 26. He might give that a chase against the C's in this one.

End of first quarter, Mavs 23-19: What a mess. Both teams go three minutes without a field goal, only to see Glen Davis and J.J. Barea each knock down a long jumper in the final seconds. The Mavs go up four at the break.

Turnovers and bad shots are the story of this one so far. The Mavericks have coughed up the ball six times to the Celtics' four. The Celtics are shooting 8-of-25, or 32 percent. Not good.

Tyson Chandler emerges as the MVP of the first quarter. The Mavs' center has four points, seven rebounds and a block early. He's killing the undersized Glen Davis on the glass.

First quarter, 3:14, Mavs 18-15: This game started slow, but now it has a 120-110 feel to it. Not the kind of ballgame you typically see in the Eastern Conference — guys are running, gunning and making things happen quickly.

DeShawn Stevenson (of all people) has six points for the Mavericks, who now lead by three. Rajon Rondo has six for the Celtics.

First quarter, 4:23, 13-13: It's a game of runs. The C's rattle off a quick 6-0 streak of their own, with Rajon Rondo tying the game on a steal from Dirk Nowitzki, taken coast to coast untouched.

Whatever Doc Rivers says in that huddle, it always works. The C's are the best in the game coming out of timeouts.

First quarter, 5:29, 13-7 Mavs: The Mavs are running circles around the Celtics right now. Jason Kidd swipes a rebound away from Jermaine O'Neal, runs the break with DeShawn Stevenson, and finds Caron Butler wide open at the rim for a one-handed throwdown.

The Mavs just look more athletic, better prepared, you name it. They're dominating this first quarter.

Kidd's doing the Rondoesque "dominate the game without scoring" thing. He's got four assists, a rebound and a steal.

First quarter, 6:18, 11-6 Mavs: The Mavericks have ripped off a quick 7-0 run, capped off by a Tyson Chandler slam.

The C's aren't moving well defensively. It looks like they were just playing against a relentless, athletic offense last night.

They were.

First quarter, 8:02, 6-4 Celtics: It's been an ugly start for both sides. The Mavericks are 2-of-6 from the field; the Celtics are even worse at 3-of-10.

Part of it is solid defense on both sides, but another part is sloppy execution. Poorly set screens, rushed shots, questionable decisions with the basketball. Both teams will need a few minutes to smooth things out.

First quarter, 10:32, 4-2 Celtics: The Celtics are hitting their shots early. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo each knock down a jumper early, giving the C's a 4-2 lead.

This game will likely be a battle of which team can best force the other to settle for jumpers. (So far, they're both winning.)

8:30 p.m.: Once again, no Shaquille O'Neal in the starting lineup for Boston. Shaq is on the road to recovery from his bruised right knee, but he's not yet ready to make a return. Jermaine O'Neal will start in his place.

J.O. has been banged up lately, including recently undergoing a knee operation, but he'll be forced to play hurt with Shaq out. Expect to see Glen Davis and Semih Erden early and often off the bench to spell J.O.

DeShawn Stevenson will make his first start this season for the Mavericks, meaning both Jason Terry and Shawn Marion will come off the bench for Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.

8 p.m.: For the Mavericks, the biggest challenge in this game will be controlling Rajon Rondo.

Jason Kidd is now 37 years old and too slow to stay with the Celtics' explosive point guard. The Mavs will try to find a way to turn Rondo into a jump shooter — but that has to be a total team effort. If one guy gets left open, that's a Rondo assist waiting to happen.

That's the thing about Rondo — if you want to stop him, you have to stop his whole team.

7 p.m.: Likely foremost among Doc Rivers' pregame concerns as he prepares for these Dallas Mavericks: stopping Dirk Nowitzki. He hasn't had much luck in the past.

Dirk's scoring totals in his last three games against the Celtics, dating back to February 2009: 37, 37, 28. Last time he was at the TD Garden, on Jan. 18, 2010, Dirk went crazy and shot 14-of-22. The Celtics lost by nine at home.

Dirk's a tough cover for anyone, but perhaps Kevin Garnett will have more luck now that he's healthy. He can score from anywhere on the floor, and KG will have to work hard all night to chase him around, running through picks and screens all over the place.

It would of course help KG to get a little help from his friends. But these Mavs have so many weapons that KG's friends will all have their hands full.

3:30 p.m.: For approximately the kajillionth game in a row, the big pregame question is how many healthy O'Neals the Celtics will have at their disposal.

Shaquille O'Neal has recovered very, very slowly from a bruise he suffered colliding with Amare Stoudemire a week and a half ago. Jermaine O'Neal revealed after Sunday night's win in Oklahoma City that he recently had a "minor knee procedure" done and he's not a sure thing to play Monday.

The C's have long feared a day might come when both their centers will be missing in action. If that day is Monday, you can expect Glen Davis to start and Semih Erden to get a lot of minutes off the bench.

This is an important matchup for Semih — the C's need to fight size with size. Dallas boasts two legit 7-footers in Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. Big Baby might not be big enough for the Mavs.

8 a.m.: The Celtics are now winners of their last five games, but the tour bus keeps rolling. The next stop is Dallas, where the C's will take on a Mavericks team that's a perennial threat in the Western Conference.

These are two great veteran teams, but in a way, they're opposites. The C's have had a knack for choking in regular-season games, letting leads slip away and losing games they shouldn't, but they turn it on in the playoffs. The Mavs on the other hand are a regular-season superpower — they've won 50-plus in 10 straight seasons — but they've folded in the postseason.

This is a game the Celtics could easily lose. They're tired, they're banged up and they've squandered a lot of games against a lot of good teams the last two years.

They'll need to muster a complete team effort to give themselves a chance.

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