BOSTON – Raymond Felton once again showed how valuable he is to the Dallas Mavericks.
Not long after producing one of his worst moments Wednesday night against Boston, Felton turned in the top defensive play of the game which helped the Mavs win their fifth straight game as they toppled the Celtics, 106-102, at TD Garden.
With the Mavs clinging precariously to a 104-102 lead, Felton stepped to the free throw line with 16.5 seconds left and eyeing down a pair of charity tosses which could in effect hammer the final nail in on this game. But instead of becoming clutch in the clutch, Felton missed both free throws and gave the Celtics a whole new life.
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However, during one of his darkest moments, all Felton did was hustle down the floor and steal the ball from Isaiah Thomas with 9.8 seconds remaining the game. That clutch steal, along with two free throws from Deron Williams with 4.4 seconds left, capped off an amazing comeback from 18 points down by the Mavs.
It also showed a side of Felton which the Mavs knew all along.
"I can’t say enough about the play that Felton made at the end of the game after the two missed free throws,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "He sprinted back, he got a deflection.
"That was the play of the game and that’s the kind of persistence and wherewithal we got to have.’’
From his standpoint, Felton believed he had no choice but to try and make amends for missing those pair of free throws during a critical stage 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 so 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.’’
With that, the Mavs (8-4) swept this three-game road trip and head home to face the Utah Jazz on Friday before packing their bags again and starting a three-game road trip Sunday in Oklahoma City.
"That whole sequence down the stretch was a little high schoolish,’’ said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 23 points. "It was kind of a weird sequence there at the end, but we worked hard and work hard, so sometimes you get some lucky bounces.
"(Felton) didn’t give up, he chased (Thomas) down, and it was a great steal and we needed it.’’
That all-out hustle by Felton didn’t surprise Williams, who played 37 minutes and was 5-of-11 from the field.
"He went back and got it and that’s all that matters,’’ said Williams, who collected 16 points and six assists. "He made a mistake missing two free throws, which is definitely uncharacteristic for him, and then he goes back and gets it right back for us.
"That was the play of the game.’’
Boston used an 18-2 run to bolt ahead 31-13 with 2:30 still remaining in the first quarter. The Celtics looked like video-game players the way they were bouncing all over the place and scoring buckets and turning turnovers into easy opportunity baskets.
But the Mavs, who got eight points in 21 minutes from Chandler Parsons, and 14 points and 12 rebounds from Zaza Pachulia, managed to stay within arm’s length of the Celtics. Then came that dramatic 14-2 run by Dallas which put the Mavs up 96-91 with 3:41 left.
"They got off to a good start and we could have easily folded in the first quarter, in the first half and just gave the game away,’’ Felton said. "But we kept fighting, kept fighting, and came in here with a less than a 10-point deficit to them going into the half.
"And then we came out and kind of jumped on top of them in the second half and the momentum shifted our way.’’
The final momentum shift came after Felton’s critical steal. And it came on a night when no one would have blamed the Mavs if they would have shut it down after falling down by 18 points.
"Our mentality is to try and get every win,’’ Felton said. "We stepped in this arena thinking that we’re going 3-0 and going back to Dallas.
"That was our mentality, but things happen, teams make runs, this team here was just as hot as we are. We knew this was a big game and we knew it was going to be a dogfight, and that it was. It was definitely a dogfight, but we came out on top.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com.