Boston’s three-headed monster was too much for the Dallas Mavericks to overcome.
Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 82 points and that was enough to lead the Celtics to a 109-103 triumph over the Mavs before a Wednesday night sellout crowd of 20,181 at American Airlines Center. The sellout was the 800th straight sellout for the Mavs and represents the longest in NBA history.
With the loss, the Mavs fell to 18-9 on the season headed into a two-game trip that starts Friday in Philadelphia and continues Sunday in Toronto before the Mavs return home to play San Antonio on Dec. 26.
Walker scored 32 points, Brown poured in 26 and Tatum added 24 as the Mavs had problems keeping up with the Celtics’ trio.
“Boston’s a very good team,” Mavs center Maxi Kleber said. “I felt like we should have gotten more stops.
“There was a stretch, I remember when I was on the floor, I was not happy with it. We scored, but they scored, too.”
Playing their second straight game without injured point guard Luka Doncic, the Mavs almost found enough magic to pull this game out. Boston led 106-96 with 47.2 seconds left before the Mavs rallied to make things interesting.
Delon Wright scored on a dunk, then stole the inbounds pass, and Ryan Broekhoff – who had just come in the game for the first time – fired in a 3-pointer to get the Mavs within 106-101 with 33.3 seconds left.
Walker then split a pair of free throws, leaving Boston ahead, 107-101. From there, Brown fouled Broekhoff while the latter was attempting a 3-point shot with only 20.3 seconds.
But with a chance to make it a one-possession game, Broekhoff missed the third free throw. After that, Brown nailed a pair of charity tosses with 16.2 seconds remaining to close out the scoring.
“In games like this, it’s a dirty game, it’s an ugly game,” Kleber said. “You’ve got to get stops, and we couldn’t manage that tonight.
“Guys like Kemba Walker, big players, they’re going to make some shots. So we’ve got to get the ball out of his hands more.”
While the Mavs are 10-2 on the road, they’re only 8-7 at home, which could be some cause for concern.
“Yeah, there was an odd energy to the game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Look, we just got to keep banging away and keep working at it. Generally, these kinds of things are a collection of little things that add up.”
The Mavs led by as much as 10 points in the first half — 48-38 – and seemingly had things going their way. But the Celtics got within 55-50 of the Mavs at halftime, and outscored Dallas 26-18 in the third quarter and carried a 76-73 lead into the fourth.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Kleber said. “Sometimes we have a run, they have a run. Every time we kind of got away a little bit, they came back and they had the right answer. And at the end of the day, unfortunately it was not enough for us.”
Kristaps Porzingis led the Mavs with 23 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out. It was the first time in Porzingis’ career he’s produced three games consecutively with at least 20 points and 10 boards.
“I was just trying to be active out there,” Porzingis said. “Even if offensively I’m not scoring 30 points, I try to do all the other things that I can do like block shots, rebound — and it’s working for me.
“Offensively too, I’m getting back into my rhythm and getting back to my feel to my game and adjusting. I’m also adjusting my game to our system and how we want to play it. I feel like as the season goes on it’s only going to get better.”
Also for the Mavs, Seth Curry poured in 20 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. tallied 13 points and Jalen Brunson added 10 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. But with Dallas Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott sitting courtside, the Mavs couldn’t run by the Celtics.
Overall, Carlisle said of his team’s play: “Not a great first quarter, pretty good second quarter, and the second half was a struggle. A lot of it had to do with how well they were playing.
“We’ve just got to do better at both ends. We did some good things for the most part.”
Following Monday’s improbable 120-116 win on the road over the Milwaukee Bucks, who had an 18-game winning streak at the time, the Mavs entered Wednesday’s game with extreme confidence.
“We’re a good team,” proprietor Mark Cuban said. ‘Our second unit is one of the best in the NBA, and we’ve shown it.
“And it shows how KP, what he’s capable of doing, when he’s the No. 1 guy. But we’ve got three or four more games against some really great teams, so we’ll see.”
The Mavs shot just 39.1 percent from the field and were outrebounded, 54-42. And they had some issues separating themselves from the Celtics after building that 10-point cushion in the second quarter.
“It’s a proud group and we’ve had to make some significant adjustments without Luka because he’s a very special player,” Carlisle said. “But it’s a competitive group.”
Meanwhile, Doncic will make the upcoming two-game road trip, but Carlisle acknowledged that it’s highly unlikely that he’ll play against the Sixers or Raptors.
On the other hand, Kleber and none of the Mavs would concede that Dallas can’t win without Doncic, especially since they went to Milwaukee and defeated the powerful Bucks without Doncic.
“Ball movement and play with a lot of confidence,” Kleber said, describing how to win games sans Doncic. “Guys like Seth and KP stepping up big-time – they’re playing very good right now.
“That gave us a chance tonight again, so now we have two more every tough games before Christmas. But we can’t be afraid. We just got to go out there, play our game, move the ball more, be quicker with ball movement, make better decisions, make some shots and then hope our defense gets stops.”