First quarters haven’t exactly been a strength of the Celtics to begin the new year. So when Boston came out and played aggressively from the opening tip on Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks—forcing turnovers, running in transition, even crashing the glass on both ends—it seemed as though the game was trending toward becoming one of those classic Celtic blowouts we saw so many times last season.
But Dallas—a team that doesn’t usually like playing fast—was able to slow the pace of the game significantly throughout the second quarter, when a total of just 24 points were scored between the two teams.
Boston took back control when it mattered, though.
With about five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Marcus Smart stripped a driving Harrison Barnes and quickly fired a pass up to Isaiah Thomas, who laid the ball up to put the Celtics back in front after the Mavericks had taken a brief lead. Thomas and co. never looked back and, for what feels like the first time this season, put a team away—earning a 90-83 victory.
If they didn’t know it before, the Celtics know now just how important winning the battle on the glass can be. They out-rebounded Dallas 53-32, and it was their ability to collect misses on both ends that nullified the whopping 19 turnovers they committed.
Avery Bradley led the way for Boston in pulling down a career-high 13 rebounds, while Thomas was his usual self in the fourth quarter, in which 22 of his game-high 30 points were scored.
The Celtics will be faced with their toughest test yet on Friday when they host the Golden State Warriors. Though it was a bit of a step in the right direction, an effort much greater than Wednesday’s will be needed for Boston to come out on top.