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Clearly, Celtic hexes no longer live in Texas

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / March 20, 2008

DALLAS - The Celtics will try to do a rare Texas three-step tonight at the American Airlines Center.

The most daunting part of an NBA schedule is often the Texas triangle - consecutive games at San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas. The last team to beat the three Texas teams consecutively was Sacramento in 2001. The Celtics could accomplish the feat with a win against the Mavericks.

"This is by far the toughest stretch of our season on the road," said Paul Pierce. "It would be great just to capitalize and go through Texas with three wins. I don't know that anyone is going through this in the Eastern Conference, especially when we have so much going on with these [West] teams the way they're playing at this stretch of the season.

"It's a tremendous boost of confidence any time we can go in against one of the top teams in the Western Conference and get a win."

The Celtics haven't swept the Texas triangle since 1986-87 season. Boston has earned three sweeps, has won twice on four occasions, won once twice, and has come out winless three times for a 19-17 record. The first seven sets each resulted in at least two wins for the Celtics, but the last five had no more than one victory.

"It would mean a lot," said coach Doc Rivers. "But we aren't thinking about it that way. We're thinking about we're playing Dallas now and we'll see what happens."

Boston overcame a 22-point deficit Monday to win at San Antonio, 93-91. The next night, the Celtics raised their intensity level even higher as they snapped the Rockets' 22-game winning streak with a 94-74 rout in Houston, improving their record in the second of back-to-back games to an amazing 14-2. This one was earned on the defensive end, and no one recognized that more than Houston star Tracy McGrady, who was held to just 8 points (4 for 11 shooting).

"I've never seen a defense like that," lauded McGrady, whose team was outscored, 32-16, in the decisive third quarter. "I mean, if they play defense like that, night in and night out, the NBA is in trouble because that was defense at its finest."

Now the task for Boston (3-0 on its five-game road trip, which ends with a stop in New Orleans Saturday) will be to carry its momentum into Dallas and ride it all the way home.

"A very hot team," said Mavericks coach Avery Johnson after yesterday's practice. "They're playing some outstanding ball. I told Doc he wasn't any good as a coach last year. Now he's a better coach this year."

The Mavericks are 18-11 this season against the Eastern Conference.

"It's funny, when we were in San Antonio everyone wanted to talk about Houston and we wanted to talk about San Antonio," Rivers said. "[Tuesday], everyone wanted to talk about the streak and we just wanted to talk about Houston and trying to beat them. And now we're going to go to Dallas, where they are [29-5] at home. So, it's just another challenge.

"I would assume if you are a West team, that's how every game is. And for us, it's just one week of this trip. So, we just have to get through it."

Kevin Garnett is looking forward to the challenge since he never accomplished the Texas triangle sweep with Minnesota.

"It's not an easy thing," Garnett said. "Everyone knows that this Texas trip is the hardest by far. But, like we've been doing all year long, we'll take it one game at a time, try to keep it consistent on the defensive end, stay true to our offense, believe in it, prepare each game as if it was our last."

Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd is averaging 8.9 points, 9.6 assists, 6 rebounds, and 34 minutes in 15 games since being dealt from New Jersey. The Mavericks, who were 35-18 before the deal, are 9-6 since acquiring the All-Star Feb. 19.

Garnett said he didn't talk to Kidd about the rumors of the trade during All-Star Weekend.

"When you're players, you talk about family and what's new in people's lives, other things, especially during All-Star Weekend," Garnett said. "You get asked 50,000 questions from the media. The last thing you need is some of your peers asking you the same questions.

"We've been talking. I think he was ready to move on, from what it sounded like. He was healthy, his kids were healthy, and at the end of the day that's what you want. It will be good to see him.

"J-Kidd is one of the best in the league. He's definitely going to have Dallas a contender when it's time to be one."

Ray Allen could return to action tonight after missing the last two games with a left ankle injury. Boston is 6-1 without Allen this season . . . Tony Allen suffered a lower-back bruise when he was fouled hard Tuesday, and is day to day . . . TNT analyst Charles Barkley on Garnett's reaction to being accused by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor of tanking games at the end of last season: "I like what he said about Glen Taylor, he let that go. That's the difference between me and Kevin Garnett, I can never take the high road."

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