BOSTON – For the third year in a row the Celtics had a homestand of five games or longer. And just like the previous two extended homestands, the Celtics closed it out with a victory as they pulled away for a 97-90 win over Dallas on Wednesday.
The Celtics went 4-1 on the homestand, similar to the 5-1 stretch they had last March which helped propel them to the best in the Eastern Conference at 53-29.
The Celtics improved to 12-2 at home, which is tied with San Antonio for the most home wins in the NBA this season.
“This is good. We obviously want to keep building on it,” said Al Horford. “We’re doing a good job, playing at a high level.”
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s win over the Mavericks:
Players go down, someone emerges. It has been the unspoken narrative of this Celtics team all season. They play as though no adversity is too great, no hurdle too steep, to be overcome. And a big part of that confidence stems from having a second unit that’s starting to deliver more consistency. That was indeed the case on Wednesday night when they outscored their backup brethren, 36-23.
We talk a lot about his fourth-quarter impact, but not nearly enough about how efficient he is in that part of the game. He ranks fifth in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, doing so by literally scoring a point for every minute he’s on the floor in the fourth. Yes, Irving averages seven points scored and seven minutes played in the fourth Only LeBron James and Kristaps Porzingis average as many or more points scored per minute played in the fourth, as Irving. Against Dallas, Irving had nine points in the fourth while playing just 6:46 in the quarter.
The stat sheet continues to get stuffed on a nightly basis by Horford. But the one category to keep an eye on is field-goal attempts; specifically, when Horford gets at least 10 shot attempts. The Celtics are 13-2 this season when Horford takes at least 10 shots from the field. Against the Mavs, he had 17 points on 7-for-17 shooting, along with eight rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots.
It really does feel awkward game after game talking about Tatum and what he’s doing. And yet, he doesn’t really leave you much of a choice because of his play. Without Jaylen Brown (eye inflammation) and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation) against Dallas, the Celtics needed one of their main guys to bring a little more to the game than usual. Tatum once again rose to the challenge, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
THE LOB DUNK
The Celtics have been great about making high energy plays with their defense all season. But lately, they’re figuring out ways to get the fans pumped up with exciting plays offensively like the alley-oop. Against the Mavericks, Marcus Smart hooked up with Horford for an alley-oop dunk that cut Dallas’ lead to 59-55 in the third. The two hooked up later on to put Boston ahead 64-63 with 5:44 to play in the third. The reserves got into the act early in the fourth when Shane Larkin connected with Daniel Theis for a play that cut Dallas’ lead to 73-72.