The Boston Celtics will be well represented in the All-Star game, as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are all scheduled to play for the Eastern Conference.

The "Big Three" certainly play like All-Stars against the Dallas Mavericks.

Before entering the break, the East-leading Celtics look to sweep their second straight season series from the Mavericks when the teams meet in Dallas on Thursday night.

Boston (43-11), in the midst of a stretch of games against Western Conference powers, came away with an impressive 89-77 victory at New Orleans on Wednesday.

Pierce scored a game-high 30 points and the Celtics pulled away late, outscoring the Hornets 25-13 in the final period.

That was encouraging for Boston, which squandered fourth-quarter leads in two games last week - a 105-99 home defeat to Southwest Division-leading San Antonio on Sunday, and a 110-109 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers three nights earlier.

"I guess we learned from our mistakes,'' Pierce said. "It was all about execution, especially in the fourth quarter and we defended at a higher level there in the fourth. Those are two things we've got to do, especially on the road.''

The Celtics have won eight straight road games after dropping their previous four away from Boston.

Dallas (31-20), meanwhile, has won 10 of its last 11 at the American Airlines Center, and is looking to win six straight home games for the first time this season.

Boston had little trouble in its first meeting of the season with the Mavericks, which it won 124-100 at home on Jan. 25. The Celtics, who led by as many as 35 points, have defeated Dallas three straight times since the start of last season after losing 13 of the previous 14 meetings.

Garnett had 23 points in 25 minutes in last month's win over the Mavericks, while Allen and Eddie House also finished with 23 apiece.

Allen hyperextended his right thumb in the first half Wednesday and left after scoring just one point in 19 minutes. However, the nine-time All-Star is expected to return Thursday.

Despite playing without their second-leading scorer, the Mavericks had little trouble Tuesday beating one of the league's worst teams.

Sixth man Jason Terry, averaging 19.9 points, broke his left hand in Saturday's 115-114 overtime win over Chicago. He had surgery Monday, and is expected to miss three to six weeks.

Without Terry, Dallas is looking to get Josh Howard and Antoine Wright more involved on offense. They were able to do just that plan against lowly Sacramento on Tuesday, as Howard and Wright led the Mavericks with 23 points apiece en route to a 118-110 victory - the sixth in seven games overall for Dallas.

"Antoine came in and played great along with everyone else," Howard said. "We've got to keep doing this.''

Getting similar production Thursday against a stingy Boston defense won't be easy.

The Celtics have the league's second-best scoring defense (92.0 points per game allowed), and completely frustrated Dirk Nowitzki in the first meeting. The eight-time All-Star finished with 18 points but shot only 4 of 17 from the field.

Nowitzki has been tough to slow down lately, especially at home. He is averaging 28.0 points on 52.0 percent shooting during Dallas' five-game home winning streak.


Copyright 2008 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited