DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks had won 11 of their previous 16 games heading into Monday night’s game against the Celtics, and were flirting with a low Western Conference playoff seed.
Leave it to the Celtics, after kicking off their four-city western road trip with a loss to the worst team on the slate – Sacramento – to come back with their third straight win, all over playoff teams.
Isaiah Thomas scored 29 points to lead the C’s over Dallas, 111-98, logging his 38th straight game with 20 or more points, though the Celtics are filling in the cracks more with each game.
James Young played a crunch time role for the second straight game, and Kelly Olynyk came off the bench with 15 points on the same floor as his idol, Dirk Nowitzki.
Jae Crowder had 10 points in his first game back after a two-game family-related absence, and Marcus Smart had 19 in his Dallas homecoming.
And overall the Celtics once again opened up from downtown with a 16-for-34 (47.1 percent) 3-point performance.
The Celtics survived an empty three-shot possession at the end of the third quarter, with Terry Rozier finally putting it to rest with a big defensive board. But the Mavs, with a 10-2 run, had also just cut the Celtics lead to 83-82.
The sides then opened the fourth with a combined six straight misses, before Thomas converted a Smart home run pass off the break. Nowitzki answered, Jonas Jerebko and Devin Harris swapped 3-pointers, and during another lag in the pace Kelly Olynyk was able to score twice over a two-minute span for a 92-87 Celtics lead with 6:41 left.
Thomas’ drive extended the lead to 94-87, and after Harrison Barnes scored, Olynyk and Thomas buried back-to-back threes for a 100-88 lead with 4:32 left.
They ultimately extended that run to 19-5 for a 107-92 lead with 3:07 left, and essentially the game.
The Celtics got an assist from an old adversary, former Net Deron Williams, during a half-closing 8-0 run for a 61-50 halftime lead.
Williams was tossed for arguing an offensive foul call, and though Thomas only hit the second of his two free throws, the Celtics guard then converted the ensuing possession with a three-quarters court drive.
Ferrrell then made a horrid mistake with six-tenths of a second left, touching the Celtics guard’s elbow as he was attempting a 3-pointer. This time Thomas didn’t miss, hitting all three free throws for the 12-point halftime edge, in addition to an 18-point half, to go along with another 17 from Smart, clearly enjoying his latest homecoming.
It helped that the Celtics shot 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) in the first half, and it didn’t help when they opened the third cold. The Mavs, once again with Ferrell making shots and plays, kicked out with an 11-2 run that cut the C’s lead to two points (65-63) on a Ferrell 3-pointer.
They missed the chance to tie when Wesley Matthews missed two free throws. Horford finally stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer, Smart followed with two free throws, and with 3:34 left in the quarter a three-point play by Crowder off a steal gave the Celtics a 79-70 lead.
But the Mavs came back again, including a Seth Curry 3-pointer that trimmed the margin to 81-78.
Four straight points from Wesley Matthews, part of the same quarter-closing 10-2 run, trimmed the score to 83-82. But the Celtics were able to sneak out with that one-point lead, surviving a three-shot possession by the Mavs that was finally put to rest by a Terry Rozier rebound.
Thomas not only opened the game with a 3-pointer – he buried three in the first 2:30, the third for a 14-12 Celtics lead. But the score remained that tight, mainly because Nowitzki scored nine in the first 5:45.
But Smart and Crowder jumped into the downtown act, each with a 3-pointer. Thomas, though second in the league in free throw percentage, missed the first of two from the line after following up the Crowder bomb by drawing the foul.
Yogi Ferrell, who has been on fire since signing a 10-day contract with the Mavericks and filling in for the injured Deron Williams (back last night) and J.J. Barea, went on a solo run with five straight points, including a 3-pointer for a 24-21 Dallas lead.
But Smart, on his way to 11 first quarter points including three 3-pointers, keyed a 7-0 run that held up for a 30-28 Celtics lead at the end of the quarter.
Ferrell continued his run with the first basket of the second quarter, before the Celtics extended their own warmth, especially from downtown, with a 10-0 run for a 40-30 lead. Amir Johnson and Gerald Green hit the team’s eighth and ninth bombs in this stretch.
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