Ford Keys to the Game

Celtics 73, Mavericks 89

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Shawn Marion, JaJuan Johnson

Shawn Marion of the Mavericks shoots a floater over JaJuan Johnson.
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Everyone paying attention to Monday night’s matchup between the Celtics and Mavericks knew that the C’s were in deep trouble. Without the services of three of their top six players, Boston was overmatched before the opening tip was even tossed up.

The C’s played Thursday’s game without Rajon Rondo (suspension), Kevin Garnett (personal matter) and Brandon Bass (knee injury). The absence of all three of those players loomed large, but missing Garnett is spelled doom for Boston during the most important stretch of the game.

Without Garnett, Chris Wilcox received the start and was faced with the task of defending Dirk Nowitzki. Not many people in this league can slow down Nowitzki, and Wilcox showed tonight that he is not a member of that elite group.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP went off for game highs of 26 points and 16 rebounds tonight and provided the most important swing of the game in the midst of that performance. Nowitzki scored eight consecutive points over a span of just one minute and 25 seconds of the second quarter, taking all of the wind out of Boston’s sails.

The first four points of that stretch came from the free-throw line. Nowitzki, one of the best free throw shooters of all time, nailed the first two freebies after faking Wilcox into a foul. The next two free throws came after Nowitzki grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled by Mickael Pietrus in the paint.

Those first four points came in easy fashion, but the next four had a much higher degree of difficulty. Well, maybe that's not true for a 7-footer who shoots the ball as well as anyone in the history of the game.

Nowitzki drilled two straight contested mid-range jumpers, coming from 15 and 16 feet out, to cap his personal 8-0 run and put the Mavericks ahead by 14 points. Leading by 14 in the second quarter is usually not a signal for the game being over, but after that stretch Dallas took complete control of the game. The Mavs went on to lead by as many as 26 points and their cushion never dropped back into single-digits.

We all knew that the C’s were put in a difficult position without the services of Garnett to defend Nowitzki. It appears Nowitzki himself knew of that quandary as well. He went at Wilcox and anyone else the Celtics threw at him. That aggressive offense led to that critical 8-0 run that put the game away and helped him to catch fire. He never cooled down after that point, as he went on to score 14 of Dallas' 17 points during and after that run.

Key Box Score Line

There’s no doubt that Dirk Nowitzki was the player of the game tonight, but the stat line that Mickael Pietrus compiled cannot go ignored.

Pietrus received big-time minutes Monday night thanks to a plethora of injuries and absent players on Boston’s end. He nearly matched his Celtics career high with 34 minutes of playing time while playing several different positions, including shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

Despite playing from behind by a huge margin for nearly all of those 34 minutes, Pietrus played with the energy and passion that has made him endeared here in Boston. His hustle led to a team-high (and Celtics career high) 12 rebounds, which falls just two short of his career high. He also recognized that his shot was not on par and chose to facilitate rather than fire up jumpers. He dished out a team-high four assists in the game.

It’s nights like these where you learn the real make up of a player. Pietrus did not quit, he did not whine and he did not show a lack of effort. Instead, he played his tail off and hustled after the basketball at every opportunity. He should certainly be proud of his effort, especially when you consider the fact that for much of the night he was asked to defend Nowitzki at the defensive end.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Dirk Nowitzki recorded game highs of 26 points and 16 rebounds.
  • By the end of the game, the Celtics had just 10 total players available due to injuries and suspensions.
  • Boston did not score more than 20 points in any of the four quarters.
  • Brandan Wright (nine points) and Jason Terry (16 points) each scored more points than Boston's highest-scoring reserve, which was JaJuan Johnson with eight points.
  • Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points.
  • There were only 25 free throw attempts in the game.
  • Both teams shot less than 41 percent from the field.
  • There were no lead changes and Dallas led by as many as 26 points.
  • There were only 14 total fast break points in the game.
  • Pierce led the game with five turnovers and committed half as many turnovers as the entire Mavericks team.
  • Mickael Pietrus led the Celtics in rebounds with 12 and in assists with four.
  • Five of the game's 10 starters scored in single-digits.
  • Avery Bradley scored 12 points thanks to a solid 6-for-11 shooting night.
  • Jermaine O'Neal blocked four shots in just 19 minutes of action.
  • Thirteen players grabbed at least four rebounds.
  • None of Boston's starters grabbed more than five rebounds or dished out more than three assists.
  • Dallas scored 25 points off of Boston's 17 turnovers.
  • Three milestones were reached in the game, with Nowitzki recording his 1,000th career block and passing Robert Parish on the all-time scoring list, and with Jason Kidd passing Michael Jordan for second on the all-time steals list.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on the strategy he employed during tonight's game: "Tonight if we could’ve stolen the game it would have been great. Playing five guards on the floor, we just tried to mess the game up. That was our intention going in, and we actually did, but we just couldn’t make shots."