By the numbers, the Celtics dominated this game in almost every facet. But there was one mark that stands out in the box score: 50 percent shooting for Dallas. And that is why the Mavs came back to post the victory at home, 89-87, and end the Celtics’ winning streak.
The Celtics got off to a slow start in this one, and that might have come back to bite them in the end as they had to play from behind in a back-to-back setting. But the truth is that Boston had this game in its grasp before losing the lead at the end.
We could sit and talk about another stellar night for Rajon Rondo with 15 assists or a big game on the boards from Kevin Garnett. But this breakdown really only needs two highlights. The Celtics got to the line just seven times (compared to Dallas’ 20) and missed 16 shots within five feet of the basket.
The Mavs played zone all night on the defensive end in order to limit Rajon Rondo’s penetration and keep him from creating chaos for their defense. And while that didn’t necessarily work, Rick Carlisle’s defensive strategy proved to have other benefits. The Celtics couldn’t solve the Mavs despite the mismatches they received, and that might have been due to a failure in aggression.
That Celtics shot just two free throws in the second half, and of the seven they shot all game two came on technicals. That tells you that the Mavs did a great job of shutting off Boston’s ability to get the ball to the bucket, but also that the Celtics allowed the opposition to dictate the game on that end and settled for tougher shots.
When they did get easy shots, however, they missed. A lot. There were quite a few gimmies that did not fall for Boston tonight, which was partly a credit to Dallas’ defense and mostly due to poor execution on the Celtics’ end. Two of those misses came in the last two minutes, when the Celtics squandered a five-point lead.
In the end, Dirk Nowitzki nailed the game-winner in Glen Davis’ mug, while the Celtics failed to get off a quality shot on the ensuing possession. Dallas had come in struggling in the fourth quarter, but on this night the Mavs hung on and prevailed. Maybe they have solved their end of game woes for now, but the Celtics surely haven’t.