Pierce gets to the line and hits one of two free throws; then they hack Allen after a Rodrigue Beaubois miss, and he hits two.
The Mavs finally throw in the towel after one last Paul Pierce steal, and that's that. Behind 29 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals from the captain, Boston gets its fourth straight win, including an impressive sweep of Houston and Dallas on the road. A big, big win for the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 1:08, Celtics 99-93: Costly turnover from Dirk, huge fast-break bucket for Rondo on a feed from Paul Pierce. The C's are ready to polish off this signature win.
Fourth quarter, 1:44, Celtics 97-93: Oh, Paul. You are too much. The Celtics' captain gets open at the top of the key and knocks down a huge three, giving the Celtics a four-point lead and putting them in good position to finish this thing off. Paul Pierce now with 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
Fourth quarter, 2:03, Celtics 94-91: The C's turn the ball over and Dallas comes back the other way. Brendan Haywood misses a hook shot with a chance to put the Mavs within one, but Caron Butler draws contact from Ray Allen as he corrals the offensive rebound. Two huge free throws coming up for Butler, the Dallas newcomer.
Fourth quarter, 2:29, Celtics 94-91: Another drive from Rondo, another difficult shot, another basket. The C's offense can do no wrong.
Fourth quarter, 4:08, Celtics 92-90: The Celtics' execution offensively has been smooth as silk. On back-to-back possessions, the C's cruise to the hole for layups — first Paul Pierce gets one, then a driving Rondo comes up with a nice lay-in and puts Boston up two. They're just running every play perfectly in this fourth quarter, coming up big at a time when they can't afford mistakes.
Fourth quarter, 5:17, 86-86: Rondo tries to drive the lane and ends up turning the ball over, but after Eduardo Najera is called for a foul on the other end, the C's get the ball back and KG gets an open look for a very long two from the wing. Tie ballgame. Never doubt these Celtics veterans in a close game — they've got the will to win.
Fourth quarter, 6:57, Mavericks 84-82: The C's hot jump-shooting continues to keep them alive. Rondo hits one from the elbow; Allen knocks down a big three from the top of the key. Dallas maintains a slight lead, but the Celtics are really just one stop away from re-seizing control of this game.
Fourth quarter, 9:06, Mavericks 79-75: And now we're starting to see the same Dirk that lit the Celtics up back in January at the Garden. It was only a matter of time before that guy showed up. The Mavs claim their biggest lead of the game with a 7-0 run early in the fourth, including a 25-footer from Dirk assisted by Jason Terry. Suddenly, Dallas is in control in a game its trailed for most of the night.
End of third quarter, Celtics 73-72: Speaking of veteran leaders trading buckets… Paul Pierce has now scored the last six points for the Celtics, who close the quarter with a one-point lead. Meanwhile, the Mavs have gone Dirk, Kidd, Kidd, Dirk, matching The Truth shot for shot and even taking a one-point lead at one point on a J-Kidd trey. These are two veteran teams, and both know how to get wins in competitive games like this one. It'll have to come down to who hits their shots down the stretch.
Third quarter, 3:20, Celtics 67-63: The two veteran leaders, Garnett and Nowitzki, are trading mid-range jumpers now. Both of these guys have reinvented themselves in their post-prime years as rangier, craftier scorers, and they're both players that know how to lead their teams with clutch performance in close games. Which of the future Hall of Famers wants it more tonight?
Third quarter, 5:18, Celtics 63-60: Back come the Mavs. Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett are both starting to look a little bit tentative defensively, and Dallas is taking advantage. Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood have all gotten into the paint for inside buckets, and the Mavericks have an 8-2 run of their own. You can't keep these Mavs down — their offense is just too explosive. Expect this game to go down to the wire.
Third quarter, 8:30, Celtics 61-52: The Celtics have swung momentum their direction in a big way, with a Ray Allen three capping off an 8-2 Boston run. The C's are on fire from the field, and Rick Carlisle needs a timeout for the Mavericks. The C's are now in firm control.
Second quarter, 3:38, Celtics 45-38: Wait a minute, what just happened? Unless I'm somehow mistaken, we just witnessed five turnovers in a span of about 13 seconds. First Rondo gets a long rebound off a bad shot from Marion; he heaves down the floor, and it's picked off by Jason Terry. Terry comes back the other way, he tries to push it up the floor, his pass is picked by Kevin Garnett.
Garnett pushes it up, he's picked off by Jason Kidd. Kidd fires a pass, Garnett's there to come up with another steal, and KG then finally finds Paul Pierce for a driving layup in transition to end the mayhem. A bizarre play in every sense of the word, but it ends in an easy bucket for the C's captain, who now has 12 points to lead the Celtics.
Second quarter, 6:20, Celtics 38-36: A few careless execution mistakes for the Celtics here in the middle of the second quarter. A couple of bad shots, a couple of unwise fouls. But with hot jump shooting, they've managed to keep a slight lead despite the strong play of Terry and Marion. Nate Robinson and Ray Allen have each knocked down a nice-looking mid-range jumper in the quarter, and the Celtics' lead is still intact, albeit hanging by the proverbial thread. C's by two.
Second quarter, 9:28, Celtics 32-30: Jason Terry might look weird in that face mask, but you've got to hand it to him: He knows how to knock down big outside shots. He hits one here to bring the Mavericks back to within two, and it's the 1,499th trey of Terry's 11-year career. He's on the verge of becoming the 12th player in pro basketball history to join the 1,500-trifecta club.
End of first quarter, Celtics 30-24: Dirk is obviously a tough matchup for Rasheed Wallace, who's not the athlete he once was and has difficulty with a versatile scorer who can move well and put the ball in the hole from anywhere. But Rasheed has come off the bench with energy and appears ready for the challenge, limiting Dirk's looks with airtight coverage. The Mavs' leader is 1-for-4 tonight for only three points; leading scorers after one quarter are Pierce for the C's and Marion for the Mavs, with 10 points each.
First quarter, 3:21, Celtics 19-16: Anyone who remembers Jan. 18 when these two teams last met knows full well that the Celtics' energy defensively is focused on containing Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk killed the C's last time out. But it's a double-edged sword, as Paul Pierce's attention to Dirk frees up Shawn Marion for a lot of good looks, and Marion is already 4-for-7 from the floor for 10 points. A monster first quarter for the Matrix.
First quarter, 6:46, 8-8: It's hard not to be impressed with the way Jason Kidd has evolved in his old age. He's developed into a deadly outside shooter! And in a game where the Mavs' usual tricks aren't working inside and they're forced to live and die by the jumper, Kidd's shooting may well be a huge factor in this game. Worth noting that Kidd has a distinct size advantage on Rajon Rondo, even if Rondo is the better athlete (and, arguably, better overall basketball player).
First quarter, 9:23, Mavericks 4-2: This is what happens when you put Kevin Garnett and Shawn Marion on the same floor: You get a defensive struggle wherein no one can drive the lane and score. Both teams are settling for jumpers, and not a lot of them are falling. How's this for a prediction? Whichever team figures out how to get buckets inside first, wins.
9:04 p.m.: Talk about a game with big-time playoff implications. The Celtics enter tonight's game at 44-24, tied with Atlanta for third place in the Eastern Conference and only four games off Orlando's pace for second; the Mavs come in 47-22, a half-game up on Denver for second in the West. They lurk only four games behind the mighty Lakers.
Needless to say, both teams are really going to want this one.
10:52 a.m.: Maybe this Texas road trip won't be so hard after all?
The Celtics put together a convincing win over the Houston Rockets on the road on Friday night, leading from the first quarter on and never looking back, putting together a 94-87 victory. But the back end of the back-to-back will be a tough matchup with a Dallas team that's been hot as wildfire the past month, threatening to establish themselves as legit NBA Finals favorites.
Can the C's take them down a notch? Or will the challenge of winning on the road be just too great? We'll find out.
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