The Mavericks could have been overwhelmed by all the negative vibes working against them on Sunday afternoon.
They were trailing by 13 points in the third quarter. The Boston Celtics were revving the emotional motor in anticipation of Kevin Garnett’s jersey retirement after the game.
The fans smelled blood. The Celtics’ defense was stifling the Mavericks’ offense.
And on top of it all, those leprechauns were out in full force with St. Patrick’s Day so close.
All that karma could have been overwhelming.
But it also is why the Mavericks’ 95-92 victory over the Celtics at TD Garden was so sweet.
They got an ultra-clutch 3-pointer from Spencer Dinwiddie with 9 seconds left to break a tie and power the Mavericks to their seventh win in the last eight games. They improved to 16 games over .500 (42-26) for the first time this season.
The Mavericks also keep breathing down Utah’s neck in the race for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round that goes with it. They are two games up on sixth-place Denver.
And, the win was excellent preparation for the future.
“That’s playoff-type basketball that was played this afternoon on both sides,” Mavericks’ coach Jason Kidd said. “It was physical. Both teams made runs. It’s hard to win in this building. Guys stayed together and found a way to do it.”
Dinwiddie took a no-look pass from Luka Dončić, who had worked into the paint and the 3-pointer came without hesitation.
The Celtics had a last gasp and Dončić was called for a foul on Marcus Smart as he shot (and missed) a 3-pointer. So Smart had three free throws with 4.9 seconds left.
But no, he didn’t. With Luka imploring him, Kidd challenged the foul and the call was reversed.
The ensuing jump ball went to the Celtics, who called timeout with 3.5 seconds left. But Jayson Tatum’s 3-pointer with Dinwiddie hounding him clanged off the rim.
“I knew,” Dončić said of why he was adamant that Kidd challenge the foul. “The rule is that after the shot if you touch his hand, it’s not a foul. The refs already told me, so I knew it was going to be a successful challenge.”
Dončić recovered from a left hamstring issue in the first half to finish with 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. He said the leg problem was not something he was overly concerned with, although he did retreat to the locker room late in the first quarter to have it looked at.
“It was tight when I was warming up,” he said. “I landed (after a drive to the basket) and it was like a cramp and then my whole leg was a little tight.”
Kidd had a different explanation.
“I think the 3:30 (Boston time) start, all the parts weren’t awake yet,” Kidd said. “I don’t think it was bothering him in the second half.”
Clearly not. He, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dinwiddie fueled a comeback after the Mavericks had trailed by 13 points early in the third quarter.
Finney-Smith heated up with corner 3-pointers as he scored 13 points in the third frame. Dinwiddie tacked on seven, to go with three assists. Luka had 11 points as the Mavericks posted 38 third-quarter points after scoring just 38 in the first half.
It set up a blow-by-blow fourth quarter that ended with the Mavericks scoring the last six points of the game and holding the Celtics scoreless in the final 2:30. In addition to Dinwiddie, Luka also hit a 3-pointer with 1:21 to go.
But it was the execution of the game winning shot that drew all the attention.
“Luka was patient the whole game,” Kidd said. “If they were going to trap him or take the ball out of his hands, he was going to let his teammates make plays. He held onto it as long as he could. He got to the paint, looked to the corner to make sure he could get it to Spencer at the slot. And Spencer did the hardest part, which is catch and shoot.”
Dinwiddie said he was prepared to take the big shot because of the way the Celtics were defending late in the game.
“He (Luka) attacked and broke down the defense,” Dinwiddie said. “(Boston center) Robert Williams, is big, so he’s going to naturally run to the paint. The cross pass was there, Luka made the right read and kicked it to me. It was on me to step up and try to knock down the shot.”
Said Dončić: “He was open. I (drove) the ball and I saw him open. That was the best shot we could get. And we won the game like that.”
Finney-Smith boiled things down best.
“I feel like everybody did their job,” he said.
On a day when so many distractions were being hurled their way, that’s what made the win so sweet.
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