BOSTON – The Boston Celtics once again saved their best for last, putting together a strong fourth quarter which once again proved to be just enough to propel them to a 97-90 victory over Dallas that was yet another reminder of just how clutch this team can be when challenged.
Kyrie Irving had a game-high 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting. Al Horford continued his nightly flirtation with a triple-double, tallying 17 points along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Jayson Tatum (17 points) along with Terry Rozier (12 points) and Shane Larkin (11 points) off the bench also finished in double figures for the Celtics.
The Mavericks (7-18) were led by Harrison Barnes’ 19 points with Dirk Nowitzki chipping in with 16 points and six rebounds.
Dallas came in having won four of its last six games, so the Mavericks’ confidence was high. Making the game even more difficult for the Celtics was that they were playing without Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation).
Despite being without a starter (Brown) and a key rotation player (Morris), Boston still managed to get a tough, hard-earned victory prior to hitting the road for a three-game road trip that begins on Friday against San Antonio.
After lackluster starts to the first three quarters, Boston opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 blitz to take an 80-73 lead before a Dallas time-out was called.
The Mavericks came out of the time-out with a focus on getting the ball to Nowitzki as often as possible.
It was a good strategy for the Mavericks who scored eight of the next nine points of the game to tie the score at 81 which is when Boston called a time-out with 7:23 to play.
Boston would regain the lead, but they just couldn’t shake this Mavericks team that once again, was giving them all they could handle.
When the two met earlier this season, the Mavericks had the Celtics on the brink of defeat only for Boston to rally in the fourth, force overtime and eventually prevail 110-102.
Boston didn’t dig itself as deep a hole in the fourth on Wednesday as they did when the two met last month, which made pulling away in the final minutes of play a smoother path towards victory.
Getting it done in the closing moments once again was Kyrie Irving, whose 3-point play that made it an 92-85 game brought about the all-too-familiar “M-V-P” chants from the Celtics faithful in attendance.
He wasn’t done.
After being nearly stripped in the paint, he tossed up a bank shot off the glass to make it a 95-87 game.
Moments later, he came up with a steal and got the outlet pass up court to Terry Rozier whose dunk put the Celtics ahead 97-87, their first double-digit lead of the night.
And from there, the Celtics (22-4) were able to manage the game clock and come away with their fourth straight win and sixth in the last seven games.
It also improved Boston’s record against Western Conference teams to a perfect 8-0 on the season.