Ford Keys to the Game: Mavericks 90, Celtics 85

Ford Keys to the Game

Mavericks 90, Celtics 85

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo soars through the air after driving along the baseline Wednesday night.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

It wasn’t pretty basketball for 48 minutes, but the Boston Celtics sure left it all on the court for the duration of tonight’s 90-85 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

They trailed by as many as 13 in the second half but fought back to make this a game in the final minutes. And boy, did it turn into a legitimate game between two great teams.

Paul Pierce struggled mightily at the offensive end of the floor for the second straight game but wound up playing a major role down the stretch. Heading into the final minute of play, he had taken only four shots in the game and made just one of them. His point tally was stuck at four.

To put it simply, it did not feel like a night in which there would be any heroics from the captain. Then Pierce proved that you should never doubt him.

Boston trailed by three points when Brandon Bass grabbed a rebound off of a Shawn Marion missed runner with 35.9 seconds remaining in the game. Doc Rivers tried to call for a timeout, but Rajon Rondo streaked up the court and the refs did not grant the timeout. That worked out perfectly, because Pierce wound up taking a rainbow 3-pointer from the right wing that dropped through the net to tie this game up at 85-85 with 25.0 seconds left on the clock.

The shot by Pierce wasn’t quite a desperation heave, but it was pretty darn close. That’s the type of shot that gives confidence and hope to a team and crowd. It was obvious that such was the case in the Garden, as the Celtics were excited in their huddle after Dallas called timeout and the crowd was going wild.

And so there we were, with the crowd in a frenzy and 25 seconds left on the clock in a tie ballgame. You’d think the Celtics would have an incredible advantage in that situation considering that Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle had already been ejected from the game. Terry Stotts took over and ran the show on Dallas’ sideline, and he isn’t exactly Rivers or Carlisle.

In this situation, though, he didn’t need to be. You say one thing and one thing only in that huddle: Get the ball to Dirk Nowitzki.

The Mavericks’ star and former MVP had been relatively quiet all night long thanks to a stout defensive effort by Kevin Garnett, but much like Pierce, Nowitzki will almost always be reliable during crunch time.

Dallas immediately got the ball into Nowitzki's hands on the right wing during their ensuing possession. He was in an isolated situation against Garnett with the game on the line. Instead of relying on his incredible shooting prowess from the outside, Nowitzki made a play similar to his clutch move against the Heat during last year’s NBA Finals. He drove to his right, breaking through an arm bar by Garnett, and put up a difficult shot from the right block. A couple of Celtics clobbered him as the shot left his hand and a foul was called on Bass with 5.1 seconds left.

That hard foul was given with the intention of preventing a layup, but it didn’t matter with Nowitzki. He somehow got the shot to fall straight through the hoop to put the Mavericks ahead 87-85. He tacked on the free throw a few seconds later to bump the lead up to three.

Rivers whistled for a timeout and drew up a play to get Ray Allen a 3-pointer in front of Dallas' bench but it was all for naught. Rondo tried to thread the needle on the pass and it wound up bouncing off of Allen and out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Mavs with 4.3 seconds remaining. Jason Terry made an uncontested layup on the final play of the game to finish up the night’s scoring.

It seemed at first as if Pierce delivered the big shot Boston needed to pull off a monumental comeback against the defending NBA champions. Nowitzki’s clutch play thwarted that idea, though, and sent Boston to its second consecutive loss. It was an MVP play by Nowitzki, and if you watch it again you’ll see that there was probably nothing the Celtics could have done to stop it.

Key Box Score Line

Kevin Garnett hasn’t been himself this season from a statistical standpoint. He entered tonight’s contest with season averages of just 12.9 PPG and 7.0 RPG. The Big Ticket surpassed both of those numbers with ease tonight, and for that he finds himself in the Key Box Score Line section.

Garnett outperformed Dirk Nowitzki in a matchup between two of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. KG racked up 16 points in the game and was perfect from the free-throw line, where he his all of his eight attempts. He also pulled in 10 rebounds and dished out three assists.

Those numbers are all great, but the most telling stat of all is that Boston outscored Dallas by 15 points during Garnett’s 37 minutes of play. The next-highest Celtic in that category? That would be Mickael Pietrus, and his plus/minus rating was just plus-two.

Garnett played great on offense but he also shut down Nowitzki, who did score 16 points but did so on just 5-of-11 shooting. Limiting a player like Nowitzki to those types of numbers, all while putting up his own at the other end, was quite an impressive feat for Garnett.

Box Score Nuggets

  • The largest lead of the game was 13 by Dallas, and that was in the third quarter.
  • Boston was outscored 17-0 in second-chance points.
  • Rajon Rondo recorded game highs of 24 points and seven assists.
  • Kevin Garnett notched the game's only double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Dallas shot just 14-of-25 from the free-throw line.
  • The Celtics scored 26 points in both the second and fourth quarters.
  • Jason Terry led the Mavericks in scoring with 18 off the bench.
  • Delonte West and Shawn Marion both attempted 14 shots.
  • Rondo shot 8-of-16 from the field and made eight of his 12 free throws.
  • Boston outshot Dallas from the field and the free-throw line but still lost.
  • Paul Pierce (seven points) and Ray Allen (nine points) combined to score only 16 points on the night.
  • Brendan Haywood grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
  • Both teams committed 17 turnovers.
  • Garnett was the only Celtic player to grab more than five rebounds.
  • Dallas grabbed 12 offensive rebounds to Boston's two.
  • Rick Carlisle was the second opposing coach in four games to be ejected while facing the Celtics.
  • Garnett's plus-15 plus/minus rating was more than seven-times higher than the next-highest rating by a Celtic, which was Mickael Pietrus' plus-two rating.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on Mickael Pietrus' first game with the Celtics: "He’s exactly what we need. And it’s just going to get better. Even if it didn’t, I’d take it. Really. He was terrific. He really was. His energy, his joy – he brought joy to the game. You know, you can just see it... He was so happy to play, and really the only reason he came out (in the fourth quarter) was because he was dying. He was getting tired and I had to take him out."