Celtics

BSJ Game Report: Celtics 97, Mavericks 90 — A short-handed rally

(Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

Everything you need to know about the Celtics’ 97-90 win over the Mavericks in quickie form.

HEADLINES

A short-handed win: The Celtics were without their three of their top wings with Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (knee) also sidelined that forced Brad Stevens to dig deep into his bench (all 11 active Celtics played). After an ugly start by the bench backcourt, Shane Larkin (11 points) and Terry Rozier (12 points, 9 rebounds) both provided major sparks before key starters like Al Horford (17 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists), Jayson Tatum (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (game-high 23 points) closed the door on the Mavericks with a big fourth quarter to finish off the visitors.   

Second-half turnaround: After allowing 57 points to the seven-win Mavs in the first half, the Celtics tightened things up tremendously on the defensive end after intermission. Dallas scored just 33 points on 31 percent shooting over the final 24 minutes, including a paltry 3-of-15 from 3-point range. The Celtics are still the top defensive team in the league and even though they have shown some slippage lately on that end, they demonstrated they can turn up the pressure when needed.  

TURNING POINT

With the Celtics and Mavericks tied at 85 with 4:31 remaining in the game, Irving took control. The All-Star point guard scored seven of Boston’s next 12 points in the midst of a 12-2 run that put away the Mavericks in crunch time. He scored nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter.

TWO UP

Jayson Tatum: The 19-year-old became the first Celtics rookie to score in double figures in 14 consecutive games since Antoine Walker did in 20 straight times at the end of the 1996-97 season. He also improved his 3-point shooting percentage yet again to 51.9 percent with a 2-of-3 outing and now leads all rookies in 10+ points games (23).    

Daniel Theis: Irving or Horford could easily go in here but the German needs a shoutout. He posted a career-high 11 rebounds in just 17 minutes and continues to provide consistent energy on both ends when he’s in the game. He stuffed the box score Wednesday night with 7 points, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block.    

TWO DOWN

Semi Ojeleye: The versatility on defense is nice but the shot still isn’t falling from downtown. He missed all 3-point attempts from beyond the arc and is down to 30 percent shooting from deep on the year. He was also a team-worst minus-14 in the win.  

First half defense: 47 percent shooting from 3-point range and just three first-half turnovers from the Mavericks are both examples of the lack of effort the Celtics showed for the first 24 minutes of the game. “I just thought we played harder,” Brad Stevens said of the second half defensive turnaround after the game.  

TOP PLAY

This is a tremendous pass by Theis. Bonus points for the Yabusele dab that this camera missed.

TWO TAKES B-ROBB WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER

The end of the bench showed me something tonight: This crew looked headed for disaster early in the second quarter when no one could get things going offensively. Then Guerschon Yabusele came in with some extra fire and things got rolling against for the second unit after a listless stint. Yabusele dished out three assists and drilled a 3-pointer, while Larkin broke out of a 1-of-15 slump with three 3s. Rozier and Theis found their grooves in the second half as well. It was another timely performance when the C’s really needed it.    

This win is better than it looks on paper: Over the past few weeks, the Mavs have been a top-10 team on both ends of the floor. They were playing with great ball movement early and their guards were getting whatever they want against the C’s defense. It all came apart quickly in the second half as the Celtics outscored them 50-33, earning their seventh win of the year after trailing by 10 or more points.