BOSTON Four days with nothing but rest and reps for the Boston Celtics didn't produce the kind of start they were hoping for against the Dallas Mavericks.
The finish was better, but it wasn't enough as the battle for better-than-average status was won by Dallas, 90-85.
Rajon Rondo finished with 24 points and seven assists in the losing effort.
After a 3-pointer from Paul Pierce tied the game at 85, Dirk Nowitzki scored while being fouled with 5.1 seconds to play.
Nowitzki, who had 16 points, made the free throw which put the Mavericks ahead 88-85.
Following a Celtics time-out, Boston turned the ball over on the in-bounds, which all but sealed the victory for Dallas.
The victory put the Mavericks (6-5) above .500 for the first time this season, and dropped the C's (4-5) below .500.
After falling behind 10-2 and trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, Boston took its first lead early in the third quarter on a Ray Allen jumper.
A Jermaine O'Neal jumper - seriously, he took a shot and made it - soon came, and that was followed by a pair of Allen technical foul free throws after Mavericks coach and former Celtic Rick Carlisle was ejected.
But the C's momentum didn't last long.
Boston led by five points, only for the Mavs to counter with a 21-6 run to go back on top by double digits.
The Celtics got off to a nice start to the first, but their Achilles heel - rebounding - once again proved to be problematic.
Trailing 68-64, they forced a miss only to have Dirk Nowitzki out-work Kevin Garnett for the loose ball. Moments later, Nowitzki beat Garnett off the dribble for a lay-up.
Boston continued to battle, but the frustration of not being able to get over the hump began to set in as Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers were each whistled for a technical foul in the fourth - a no-no, according to Rivers.