The Boston Celtics weren't able to find the luck of the Irish on Monday night in Dallas. They lost to the Mavericks, 94-89, in a night that featured plenty of ups and downs. The young bigs, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, were both terrific, combining for a total 29 points and 18 rebounds. But the starters couldn't get anything going, as was highlighted by Jeff Green's 2-for-12 shooting performance.
Boston trailed 50-43 at halftime, but they would've gotten blown out by then if it weren't for the bench. Down 33-24 in the middle of the second period, the Celtics exploded with a furious 13-0 run to grab a lead. Jared Sullinger had 11 points and four rebounds in only 13 minutes, and Phil Pressey was 2-for-2 from three-point land for six points. The only starter with a productive first half was Kris Humphries, who hustled his way to five offensive rebounds out of seven total. One night after igniting for 39 points, Jeff Green had a measly two points at half.
The second half started off as ugly as the characters in the horror movie, "Leprechaun," after the Mavs had a 14-4 run. The C's trailed 64-49 with 4:15 left in the period when Brad Stevens called a timeout to settle his guys down. Then something changed: the defense stepped up by forcing stops and the offense finally started hitting shots over the course of a 12-0 run to close the quarter.
But Dallas stormed back with a 14-5 run at the start of the final frame, as they took a 12-point lead with less than 6:30 left to go in the game. But, like they did on Sunday night, the Celtics made it a game late in the fourth quarter. Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley drained three-pointers to cut the deficit to only four, while the rookie Kelly Olynyk continued to make plays on both ends of the floor.
The Mavs led 80-76 when the game turned into a shootout with less than four minutes left. Jerryd Bayless scored nine consecutive points for the C's, but the Mavericks kept hitting shots. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki each hit three-pointers, and Brandan Wright hit a huge putback layup.
Down five points with less than a minute left, the Celtics had an unbelievable run of plays. They missed two easy shots at the rim, but Olynyk flew out of nowhere to tip in a layup. Then, at 90-87, the Mavericks dribbled the ball up the court, but Avery Bradley stripped the ball and turned it around for a layup.
Boston trailed only 90-89 with 21.6 seconds left, so they intentionally fouled Ellis, who hit both free throws. The C's then called a timeout to design a play, but Bayless, for whatever reason, penetrated the paint and tossed up a horrendous layup attempt. Perhaps, after his hot-streak, he felt like he couldn't miss anything. Dallas eventually grabbed the rebound and was fouled; they hit both free throws to seal up another loss for the Celtics.
Before the game, CSNNE sideline reporter Abby Chin asked Jeff Green if he was going to try and replicate his 39-point performance from Sunday night. Green replied, "No, I'm just going to try to win." Well, he certainly wasn't lying about going for a huge scoring game, since we saw a typical shade of Green tonight.
Green fell flat with five points on a night the Celtics really needed him to step up. Even though he wasn't featured by the offense, Green was unable to get anything going even when given the opportunity, shooting 2-of-12 from the field in a team-high 39 minutes. Perhaps that's because Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Green presents a "Durant-like" matchup. That makes a lot of sense, especially because Durant has scored less than 10 points only eight times in his career, compared to Green who just did it for the 127th time tonight.
Hump should be on "the bus"
Kris Humphries continues to make a case that he deserves to be on "the bus," as Danny Ainge puts it when discussing players he wants to be a part of Boston's future. For the game, Humphries had five points and 14 rebounds, but the box score doesn't do him justice.
Hump was one of the few starters who came out and played a terrific first half. When everyone else was lollygagging around, including the Mavericks, Humphries was out there hustling for loose balls and snatching offensive rebounds. At this point in the season, it'd be surprising if Ainge hasn't expressed interest in resigning Humphries to a fair contract extension.
Boston makes history, but they do it with heart
The 2014 Boston Celtics are the first team in franchise history to go winless against the Western Conference. They went 0-15 on the year versus the West, but they played each and every game with heart. The past two nights have been prime examples. When they were down, and could've sulked and given up, they didn't. This speaks to Brad Stevens' ability to lead his team, but also each player's will to win. If Danny Ainge makes big moves this offseason, the Celtics will turn these "moral victories" into actual "W's" in the win/loss column.
Olynyk keeps improving
You've got to give Kelly Olynyk credit. He has had to fight through two injuries this season, yet he continues to take huge strides in his game. Tonight, KO faced off against his idol, Dirk Nowitzki, and played a terrific game. During the third quarter, Olynyk defended Dirk on the perimeter, stayed in a seated stance, and took a charge to the chin from Nowitzki. It was truly a sensational example of his improvements on the defensive end this season.
But we all know Kelly's potential is in the scoring department. He was great once again tonight, draining six shots on his way to 16 points. Olynyk appears to have revised his jumper mid-season, as he is incorporating a "hop" on his perimeter attempts. This allows him to get shots off quickly, and the results are promising. The game has slowed down for Kelly Olynyk, as he continues to establish himself as a prominent part of Boston's future.
Boston returns home on Wednesday to host the Miami Heat, who will be playing their second game of a back-to-back.