Celtics

Celtics close out road trip with 111-98 win over Mavericks

Celtics close out road trip with 111-98 win over Mavericks

The Celtics left Boston playing their best basketball of the season with seven straight wins. And now that their four-game West coast trip is over, they once again find themselves rolling a nice wave of momentum.

Boston’s 111-98 win over Dallas (22-33) on Monday was an impressive victory to extend the Celtics’ winning streak to three in a row.

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Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 29 points while Marcus Smart, who grew up in nearby Flower Mound, Texas, had 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting.

Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points for the Mavericks, who also got decent scoring from Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews as they chipped in with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

Along with getting a season sweep, Boston also improved its road win total to 17 which is tops among all teams in the Eastern Conference.

The final score was not indicative of a game that for the most part was only separated by a couple of possessions.

The fourth quarter was a defensive slugfest at the start with neither team showing signs of taking control of the game as Boston seemingly did just enough to keep the Mavericks at bay despite another big game from undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell who led Dallas with 20 points.

With Boston’s lead down to 90-87 in the fourth, the Celtics went on a 10-2 run to push their lead to 100-89 with a 3-pointer by Thomas being the final straw for Dallas coach Rick Carlisle who called a time-out with 4:31 to play.

Seconds after the time-out, Dirk Nowitzki completed a 3-point play that made it a single digit game again. Boston responded with a lay-up by James Young who was seeing quality minutes in the fourth quarter.

After a defensive stop, Jae Crowder – drafted by Dallas and traded to Boston – drilled a 3-pointer, posed as it went through the net as Carlisle called yet another time-out with 3:36 to play and his team trailing 105-92.

From there, Boston’s control was never an issue.

Pulling away in the final quarter was in many ways similar to how Boston (36-19) closed out the first quarter of play.

Boston, facing one of the hottest teams in the NBA, were able to close out the first quarter with a 7-2 spurt to lead 30-28.

The Celtics’ strong finish to the first carried over into the second with a 10-2 spurt capped off by a 3-pointer Gerald Green which gave Boston its first double-digit lead, 40-30.

Boston’s control remained strong throughout the quarter which ended with Boston ahead 61-50.

The Mavericks stepped up their play defensively in the third, limiting the Celtics to 8-for-22 in the quarter by outscoring the Celtics 32-22 in chopping Boston’s lead down to just 83-82.

Robert Williams III (lower back contusion) out for rest of Celtics game vs. Hornets

Robert Williams III (lower back contusion) out for rest of Celtics game vs. Hornets

Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III has been ruled out for the remainder of tonight's game against Charlotte after a hard spill in the second quarter. 

According to team officials, Williams suffered a lower back contusion. 

It is unclear how long Williams will be out of action with the injury. 

He joins a growing list of Celtics centers with less-than-ideal health at the moment. 

Aron Baynes remains out with a foot injury, and the Celtics opted to rest Al Horford who is suffering from some soreness in his knee. 

With the team's injury-riddled frontcourt, Williams III was making his first NBA start tonight and finished with two points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. 

The injury occurred with 1:37 to play in the second quarter and Boston trailing 60-59 when Williams III landed hard on his lower back after attempting a put-back dunk. He would lay motionless on his floor for several seconds before a time-out was called and he eventually went to the locker room for further examination. 

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Brad Stevens: 'We are in evaluation stage on who's reliable'

Brad Stevens: 'We are in evaluation stage on who's reliable'

There’s more on the line in these final days of the regular season for the Boston Celtics than simply winning games and going into the postseason with momentum. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens had a straight-no-chaser conversation with his players earlier today with a very simple message. 

“We are in evaluation stage on who’s reliable,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston’s Brian Scalabrine. “Like when we get to that moment when we have to know if everyone is going to be on one page doing the exact same thing, who is reliable? Ultimately that’s the end of the story."

Stevens added, “If you don’t have that reliability; If you don’t have that toughness. If you don’t have the ability to move on to what’s next you don’t last very long.”

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Having that quality has been a challenge for the Celtics all season, a big reason why Boston came into tonight’s game against Charlotte fifth in the Eastern Conference despite being seen by most as the team to beat in the East.

“We haven’t always shown that this year,” Stevens admitted.

Which is why this final stretch of games is so vital, not only to the team’s overall record but also to who Stevens will lean on when the postseason arrives in less than a month. 

“We need to win as many games as we can,” Stevens said. “And every night, whether somebody’s available or not, it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up.”

Tonight it’s rookie Robert Williams III who got his first NBA start tonight in place of Al Horford who was out to resting a sore knee.

Regardless of how tonight’s game plays out, Boston has to show the ability to accept the results and move on to the next game in a relatively seamless manner. 

Stevens knows this has been an issue with the Celtics all season. 

“So we need to prove it over the next 10 games so we know it going into the playoffs,” Stevens said. 

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