Defense was evident against the defending champs, but the Celtics botched a late inbounds play and fell to the Dallas Mavericks, 90-85, at TD Garden tonight. The Celtics fall to 4-5 with the loss and face a daunting three-game stretch the rest of the week.
Paul Pierce couldn't hit a shot all game because he barely took any, but he hit the tying 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining to give the Celtics hope. Pierce finished 2 for 5 in the game and gave up some time to newcomer Mickael Pietrus, who played 17 minutes of sticky defense.
The Celtics dug themselves into an early hole, missing 9 of their first 10 shots from the field on the way to shooting 28 percent in the first quarter. They were lucky to trail by just 8 points after one.
The Celtics threw themselves fully into their defense in the second quarter, holding Dallas to 30-percent shooting. The increased effort led to 5 fast break points, a welcome sight after the team had difficulty scoring in the first. The Celtics shot 62 percent in the second and trailed, 42-41, at the break.
Rick Carlisle's ejection early in the third quarter put his team down temporarily, but the coach's emotions were well-spent, with the Mavericks finishing the quarter on a 25-12 run to take a 9-point lead into the final frame.
The Celtics fought back to tie in the fourth, but Rajon Rondo's pass found Ray Allen, whose foot was on the sideline. The Celtics gambled and gave up an easy bucket to Jason Terry for the final tally.
One bright spot for the Celtics was Kevin Garnett's defensive effort. Garnett harassed Dirk Nowitzki to 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, though Nowitzki did have the last laugh, putting Dallas ahead, 88-85, with a key drive late in the game.
It only gets harder for the Celtics in the immediate future. The Bulls come to town Friday night, the Celtics turn it around quickly in Indiana on Saturday, and Kendrick Perkins and the Oklahoma City Thunder crash the Garden on Monday.
Final: Mavericks 90, Celtics 85 Ray Allen was out-of-bounds as the Celtics attempted to tie the game, and that's your ballgame.
5.1 seconds 4th quarter, Mavericks, 88-85 Dirk with the drive past KG and the bucket plus the foul. Garnett fouled Nowitzki before the shot as well. Great strength by Dirk.
0:25 4th quarter, Tied at 85 Nothing going right for the Celtics and Pierce hits a 3-pointer to tie it. Unbelievable.
1:32 4th quarter, Mavericks, 84-80 Pierce is usually the go-to guy in these spots, but he's been non-existent. Do the Celtics still run a play for him?
2:42 4th quarter, Mavericks, 84-79 The Jet lands two baskets to put Dallas ahead. Terry leads the Mavericks with 16 points off the bench.
3:36 4th quarter, Tied at 79 Vince Carter scores and ends up in the stands right in front of Danny Ainge. Ainge screams at Rondo to push the ball before Carter can get back, and Rondo hits a layup.
6:04 4th quarter, Tied at 77 Tie ballgame. Mickael Pietrus is playing great defense, though he just asked to come out of the game. Not sure if it's for a breather or if he tweaked something. This game is ugly, but maybe that's how the Celtics need to play now.
8:07 4th quarter, Mavericks, 75-71 Paul Pierce has taken just four shots in the game.
9:12 4th quarter, Mavericks, 74-66 Getting chippy now. Rondo T'd up, then Doc Rivers. The emotion is good, but those free throws hurt.
10:02 4th quarter, Mavericks, 70-66 Keyon Dooling bringing the Celtics back with some outside shooting.
END 3d quarter, Mavericks, 68-59 Not the quarter the Celtics wanted: just six field goals. Pierce and Allen have 9 points combined.
2:35 3d quarter, Mavericks, 63-53 Celtics have scored 1 point in almost four minutes. They're losing this.
4:28 3d quarter, Mavericks, 56-52 What an up-fake by Brandon Bass. Dirk Nowitzki flies by. Chris Wilcox into the game for the first time.
5:46 3d quarter, Mavericks, 53-52 Surprised we haven't seen more of Greg Stiemsma with Jermaine O'Neal logging just three rebounds in 21 minutes.
7:25 3d quarter, Mavericks, 51-49: The Celtics are playing tough, physical defense, and Doc Rivers has to be pleased with that. This can and should be the team's identity.
10:34 3d quarter, Celtics, 47-42: Rick Carlisle just got hit with two technical fouls and was tossed from the game. He was upset with how physical Kevin Garnett was playing Dirk Nowitzki.
Halftime, Mavericks, 42-41: What a difference a quarter makes as the Celtics clamp down on defense and frustrate the Mavs. Dallas shoots just 7 of 23 in the second quarter. Rajon Rondo leading the charge for the Celtics with 16 points and an impressive 8 for 10 shooting free throws.
2:22 2d quarter, Mavericks, 43-37: The defense has been much better, but the Mavs have 8 second-chance points to none for the Celtics. Mavs have scored 26 points in the paint.
4:27 2d quarter, Mavericks, 34-32: Defense turned up to 11 for the Celtics. They're playing with passion. Doc's plan appears to be to play KG until he passes out.
6:43 2d quarter, Mavericks, 32-26: Celtics turning up their defense to good effect. Avery Bradley has earned his six minutes with hustle and has gotten to the rim twice for buckets. Pietrus is already providing good energy. Brandon Bass needs to pass the ball at least once a game. He got swallowed up there and turned it over.
9:16 2d quarter, Mavericks, 27-20: Mickael Pietrus hits his first shot as a Celtic, a 3-pointer. Still a lot of confusion on offense.
END 1st quarter, Mavericks, 23-15:Terrible start for the Celtics, who are lucky to be down just 8. The Celtics shoot 5 for 18 and give up 55-percent shooting to the Mavericks. This team is lacking an identity at the moment, and that first quarter was a perfect example.
1:25 1st quarter, Mavericks, 19-12: Mickael Pietrus checks in for the first time. Believe it's pronounced "McHale" Pietrus.
2:46 1st quarter, Mavericks, 17-9: So much for the 5-5-5 with Kevin Garnett. KG plays eight-plus minutes and leaves when Dirk leaves, giving way to Brandon Bass. Doc must like having KG guard Dirk, though it would seem to be a major mismatch in favor of Dallas at this point.
4:49 1st quarter, Mavericks, 15-6: Shawn Marion hits his second 3-pointer of the game. Offense is coming for the Celtics, but what a bad hole to dig themselves into from the jump.
7:07 1st quarter, Mavericks, 10-2: The Celtics have had 13 possessions and have scored on one of them. They're 1 for 10.
9:20 1st quarter, Mavericks, 4-0: Delonte West with the first 4 points of the game. Beats moving sectionals.
Pregame: Mickael Pietrus in a Celtics uniform. Good crowd, good energy. Will Pietrus be a difference-maker? Celtics just need him to help.
Let's get it.