The Dallas Mavericks, after a slow start, are finally starting to roll, and they rolled right through the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. The game-- a match-up of two .500 clubs-- had a bit of an ebb and flow to it. The Mavs went up double-digits early, then let the Celtics come back. They went up big again in the second half, then let the Celtics come back once more. Paul Pierce's three made it a tied game with just 25 seconds remaining, but Dallas dumped the ball to Dirk Nowitzki and let him flummox Kevin Garnett off the dribble. Nowitzki drove and dropped a tough and-one finish through the cylinder, making the subsequent free throw to put the Mavs up three. Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen botched the ensuing inbound pass, and the Mavericks sank the game-icing free throws and emerged victorious 90-85.
Until the closing minutes, both teams' primary scorers trod softly, ceding shots to their teammates and bench friends. For the Celtics, Kevin Garnett had 16 points, but Paul Pierce and Ray Allen contributed just 16 combined. It was Rajon Rondo's rugged, contact-drawing drives to the rim that kept Boston afloat, and a solid two-way effort from their bench that twice brought them back into the game. Keyon Dooling, Brandon Bass, and Mickael Pietrus (playing his first game as a Celtic) each played vigorous defense and chipped in some points to anchor the Boston second unit.
Dirk, too, was quiet most of the night for the Mavs, due at least in part to Kevin Garnett's typically rabid defense. Like Boston, Dallas got a lift from the bench, with Jason Terry's 18 points leading the team. The Mavs got big contributions from their rebounders, too, notching 12 offensive boards to the Celtics' mere two and dropping in 17 second-chance to the points to the Celtics mere zero. It was baffling at times to see the traditionally staunch Celtics granting Dallas easy drives and second attempts, but credit their bench with playing a more familiar Celtic game to keep things close.
Jeff Van Gundy insists that Rick Carlisle's game-changing meltdown be mentioned, and it was quite a meltdown indeed. Apparently fed up with Kevin Garnett's rowdy defense on Nowitzki, Carlisle just lost it in the third quarter. Behold:
That'd be Carlisle's malicious alternate personality, Hank, bubbling to the surface and getting him ejected.
... Carlisle bears a resemblance to Jim Carrey, you see, and Carrey was in the film Me, Myself, and-- oh, forget it. The point is Carlisle blew his top, and as Van Gundy brought up repeatedly, Dallas went on a pretty massive run and took a 13-point lead soon thereafter. The C's ended up neutralizing that lead anyway, but it seemed a meaningful swing after Boston had finally started to build a lead.
The Mavericks won their third straight, moving them to 6-5 on the season after an 0-3 start, while Boston fell to 4-5 with the loss.