For almost the entire first half Wednesday night, it looked as if the TD Garden walls were steadily caving in on the Dallas Mavericks.
The pesky Boston Celtics were all over the court, forcing turnover after turnover. But showing the type of resiliency that has become their calling card, the Mavs fought back from an 18-point deficit to beat the Celtics 106-102 before a crowd of 17,262.
The Mavs finished off a sweep of a three-game road trip and padded their overall record to 8-4 heading into Friday’s home game against the Utah Jazz. Boston had its three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 6-5.
They shot 76 percent in that first quarter, and we knew that wasn’t going to last all game.
Mavericks guard Deron Williams
Wednesday’s comeback victory against a solid squad could pay major dividends down the road for Dallas. If nothing else, it was a huge confidence builder.
“They shot 76 percent in that first quarter, and we knew that wasn’t going to last all game,” said Deron Williams, who finished with 16 points and six assists. “We were able to get it to eight by the half, and that gave us a lot more confidence that we had a chance to win this game.
“And so we just stayed in there — stayed patient and batted.”
After their ferocious comeback, the Mavs had a few chances to put the game away.
But when ex-Mavs swingman Jae Crowder nailed a 3-pointer to get Boston within 102-98 with 25.4 seconds to go, the Mavs decided not to call a timeout and get the ball at midcourt. They took the ball out of bounds underneath the basket, and Dwight Powell ultimately turned it over.
Crowder was fouled on the play, and buried a pair of charity tosses as the Mavs clung to a 102-100 lead. Raymond Felton later had a chance to give the Mavs a 106-102 lead with 16.5 seconds left, but the point guard missed both free throws.
My biggest thing is I missed the free throws, now go get the ball back.
Mavericks guard Raymond Felton
Instead of hanging his head in despair, Felton darted down the court and stole the ball from Isaiah Thomas with 9.8 seconds to go as the Celtics were seeking to either tie or take the lead. Williams then sealed the victory with two free throws with 4.4 seconds left as Felton rejoiced in making the defensive play of the game.
“My biggest thing is I missed the free throws, now go get the ball back,” Felton said. “I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but go get it back.
“That was my mindset, so I just kept trailing [Thomas], kept trailing him and kept behind him. And as soon as he switched the ball over to his other hand, that’s when he gave me an opportunity to go for the steal.”
The Celtics burst out of the gate. Former Texas Longhorns star Avery Bradley came off the bench and scored 12 straight points as Boston steamrolled to a 29-13 lead.
31-13 The Celtics’ biggest lead of the game, 18 points, with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
A basket by Thomas via a nifty behind-the-back bounce pass from Bradley had the building rocking as the Celtics used a crafty 18-2 run to bounce out to a 31-13 lead with 2:30 to go in the first quarter.
But the Mavs kept chipping away until they cut the deficit to 54-45 at intermission.
Dirk Nowitzki (23 points) executed a nifty spin move over Crowder to tie the score at 91, and the Mavs took their first lead of the game at 94-91 when Williams drilled a 3-pointer with 4:14 to go.
Williams followed that with a basket that vaulted the Mavs ahead 96-91 to help complete their miraculous comeback.
“Well, we really had nowhere to go but up,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They were hot making shots to start the game, and then we picked up our aggression really at both ends.
“I thought it was hairy in the beginning, too. I mean we were getting our [rear ends] kicked, and guys hung in and stayed persistent.”
Persistent enough for the Mavs to fly home riding a five-game winning streak.