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Celtics 94, Mavericks 90

Three for the road

Hustling Celtics pull off a rare triple in Texas

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / March 21, 2008

DALLAS - The Celtics messed with Texas and got away with it.

They tamed the Texas triangle by defeating the Mavericks, 94-90, last night at sold-out American Airlines Center.

The Texas triangle - consecutive games against San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas - is often the toughest part of an NBA schedule. Even so, the Celtics became the first team to beat the three Texas teams consecutively since Sacramento in 2001. It was also the first time Boston accomplished the feat since the 1986-87 season, and the fourth time in 13 tries.

"The only statement is we're done with Texas," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We don't want to see Texas anymore. It's a [heck] of a state, no taxes, and I don't want to see any of those three teams anymore [in the regular season]. They're just too tough. I'd rather move on."

The Celtics began the trip by overcoming a 22-point deficit against the reigning NBA champion Spurs Monday. The next night, Boston erased the Rockets' 22-game winning streak in a 94-74 pounding. And last night, the Celtics outscored Dallas, 28-20, in the fourth quarter to finalize the sweep.

"It's great. I looked at the schedule before this week and said, 'This is going to be the ultimate test for this ball club," said Paul Pierce, who scored a team-high 22 points. "The last time we came out West [in February] we struggled. Coming into these three games, this was the ultimate test for us. It gives us momentum going into the playoffs. What better way to do it than this?"

Kevin Garnett, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds, said, "No one in this locker room has done this. What's good about it is we did it together. We did it the way we said we were going to do things at the beginning of the season, one game at a time. And it feels good."

The Celtics (55-13) have won eight straight road games and four straight overall. The Mavericks (44-25), however, are 0-7 against teams with winning records since the arrival of Jason Kidd (2 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) via trade from New Jersey and suffered another loss in the tight Western Conference playoff race.

Ray Allen, playing his first game since bruising his ankle last Friday against Milwaukee, scored 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting. Rivers said Allen looked rusty and sat him most of the fourth quarter, putting him in with Dallas up, 87-86, with 1:54 remaining.

With 33.1 seconds left, Allen nailed a running 3-pointer to put Boston up, 90-88. The Celtics held on by nailing four free throws to seal the game. Allen said he felt fine after the game.

"It goes into the last two or three sequences offensively," said Allen of his 3-pointer. "We got good shots. The play Doc drew up brought me to the ball and the shot fell."

Said Rivers: "Ray is such a professional. We put him in with two minutes left, he goes up and down the court and makes a three for us out of a timeout."

Allen made sure the Mavericks fans had a long walk out of the arena after he had a long walk into it. He arrived via cab with three Celtics coaches hours before the game to get some shooting in. But an arena security guard forced them to take a long walk to enter the building because he didn't believe their credentials.

"When we came to the security gate, the guy wouldn't let us get dropped off," said Allen, who played 31 minutes. "We told him we were [with the Celtics], we had credentials, and he said, 'No, you can't.' So I just got out and walked and I had my headphones on and said, 'I got a job I need to do.' He was just doing his job, I guess."

The Celtics shot only 34.5 percent from the field and missed 12 of 16 3-pointers. Dallas, however, didn't shoot much better at 39.3 percent. Mavericks forward Josh Howard had a game-high 24 points and forward Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points and 19 rebounds (all defensive).

The Celtics have won at Milwaukee, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas on this trip. And even as impressive as this time has been, the Celtics have one tough road game remaining against one of the Western Conference's top teams in the New Orleans Hornets tomorrow night.

"None of them were easy," said Sam Cassell, who had 4 points and 6 assists in 26 minutes. "We had to play our [butts] off to get where we are. But it ain't over yet. We know New Orleans is going to be ready for us. Hopefully, our defense will take us to where we have to go."

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