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With the Men’s NCAA Tournament capturing the nation’s attention this weekend, the Boston Celtics quietly continued their winning streak. The latest win came Saturday night in Dallas where the C’s took down the Mavericks 103-92.
The Celtics (45-24) and Mavericks (46-23) met back on Jan. 18 in Boston where Dirk Nowitzki dropped 37 on a KG-less Celtics squad. Saturday’s contest, which Rasheed Wallace dubbed a “retribution game,” featured a healthy Boston team, and a whole new cast of characters on both sides.
Kevin Garnett scored just 8 points on 3/8 shooting, but his presence was felt more on the defensive end. The All-Star power forward took turns with Rasheed Wallace guarding Dirk, holding one of the most prolific offensive players in the NBA to 28 points on 11/19 shooting. Garnett also recorded a game-high five steals in the win.
A rejuvenated Paul Pierce went 11/17 from the field and matched Nowitzki’s effort with a game-high 29 points. Pierce was aggressive from the start, getting to the rim and refusing to settle for mid-range jump shots. The Celtics leader finally looks healthy for the first time in a very long time, and admitted to CSN sideline reporter Greg Dickerson that injuries have been the biggest reason why he and the rest of the team have struggled at times this year.
The Celtics used tremendous defense to fuel their fast break offense and get easy baskets in transition. Kendrick Perkins provided critical blocks, Paul Pierce sacrificed his body drawing crucial offensive fouls, and Kevin Garnett’s steals were converted into easy layups for Rajon Rondo.
But, the Mavs led by seven points early in the final quarter. Just when it appeared Nowitzki would lead his team to another victory, Rondo made layups on three straight possessions, putting Boston ahead 94-91 with 2:47 remaining. Rondo’s layup with 1:18 remaining put the C’s up 99-93, and sealed the victory. He finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“Rondo was the key down the stretch,” Dallas center Brendan Haywood said. “He made plays and they really fed off his energy. We didn’t get the stops. We didn’t do enough.”
Saturday’s victory completed yet another regular season road sweep for the Celtics over the state of Texas. The last team to go 3-0 on a Texas road swing was the 2007/2008 Celtics, who went on to claim the franchise’s 17th world championship. The C’s, who have the second-best road record in the NBA, continue their road trip at 9:00 p.m. on Monday against the Utah Jazz.