The Boston Celtics looked lackluster in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden on Wednesday night, and for a while, it looked as though they wouldn’t overcome it.
But Celtics outscored the Mavs by 13 points in a monster fourth quarter to earn their sixth win in seven games with the 97-90 victory.
Kyrie Irving dominated in the fourth quarter, finishing the night with a game-leading 23 points. And with Jaylen Brown (eye) out of the lineup, rookie Jayson Tatum provided a massive spark on the wing with 17 points while Al Horford also finished his night with 17.
The teams traded chances often in the first, third and fourth quarters, but after the Mavs locked things up at 85 with 4:31 to play, the Celtics ultimately put their foot on the gas and finished the game on a 12-5 run, outscoring the Mavs 50-33 in the second half.
The Celtics improve to 22-4 with the win as the Mavericks fall 7-18.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
BAD PLAY BOOKENDS FIRST QUARTER
It was probably a safe bet entering the game to guess Celtics head coach Brad Stevens wasn’t planning on having to take a timeout within the first two minutes against a 7-17 Mavs team. But just 1:55 in, the C’s coach had to call a timeout and get the team to regroup. At that point, the C’s had fallen into a 6-2 hole, which, though a menial deficit, was worse than the scoreline indicated given Tatum committed a foul 15 seconds into the contest and the Celtics went 1-for-3 from the field in that time span.
The timeout proved a smart one, however, as the Celtics opened up the game shortly thereafter and quickly claimed the lead. But after opening up a six-point lead later in the first, the Mavs surged back in the final 2:02, going on an 8-0 run and finishing the quarter up by a pair.
MAVS DO DAMAGE FROM DEEP
While trying to erase the first-quarter deficit, the Celtics pulled within one on three separate occasions in the second.
However the Mavs’ perimeter shooting was electric, with Dallas at one point hitting from 3-point territory on four straight trips down the court. From the time Dennis Smith Jr. hit the first of the four treys with 4:57 to play to the time Stevens called a timeout at 2:51 to stop the bleeding, the Mavs had gone on a 12-4 run to put them ahead by nine.
Dallas finished the first half with a 10-point lead while shooting 48 percent from the field, anchored by Smith Jr.’s 12 points. Irving and Tatum kept the Celtics in it with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
C’S SHOW LIFE IN THE THIRD
The third quarter largely can be defined by a momentum-shifting play with just under 10 minutes to go in the frame. After Harrison Barnes tried to drive the lane on Irving, the Celtics guard was able to get a hand on the ball for a block. Baynes corralled it, hit Smart who began the fast break and then hit Horford on an alley-oop.
Though the Celtics were still trailing 59-55 after the sequence, it coerced Mavs coach Rick Carlisle into a timeout as the Garden was the loudest it had been all night. On the other end of the stoppage, Tatum forced a steal at the top of the key and took it to the other end, finishing with a monster dunk.
The Celtics finished the quarter trailing 73-70, but the pair of plays earlier in the quarter gave the C’s their first real sign of life in the game, a feeling that was present the remainder of the quarter.
KYRIE TAKES OVER THE FOURTH
Was there ever any doubt Irving would take charge in the fourth quarter? The guard took over when the Celtics needed it, contributing nine points the last 6:20 of the game.
The Mavs had locked things up at 81 and 85, but after the second time Dallas equalized, Irving put his head down and went to work. He’d drive to the lane more often, pulled the trigger on his shot more frequently and helped create more opportunities for teammates because Dallas had to devote its attention to him.
The Celtics controlled possession and stifled a visibly overwhelmed Mavs squad as the game began to draw to a close. After a couple of fruitful trips down the court, it became clear the Celtics weren’t going to relinquish the lead.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Four of the five Celtics on the court got involved on this impressive two-way play.
The Celtics will begin a three-game road trip Friday when they visit the San Antonio Spurs. Tip-off from the AT&T Center is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images.