With 15 straight wins behind them—including a victory over the league’s reigning champs—the Celtics had plenty of momentum heading into their matchup against Dallas. Unfortunately this meant that it was all too easy for the team to underestimate the Mavericks, who entered (and left) the game with the worst record in the league. But despite their record, Dallas have played competitive basketball this season, notching up strong wins against decent teams like the Wizards and the Bucks.
The opening quarter had all the hallmarks of a trap game with the Mavericks notching up an early lead and the Celtics looking sluggish on both ends of the floor. Yet after falling behind by a few baskets, a few players started to get it going on offense. Kyrie managed an early and-one jump shot, and Jayson Tatum pulled off this sweet tomahawk dunk.
After coming back from an early timeout the Celtics went on a strong run to increase their lead, mostly on the back of Kyrie’s flawless shooting. Irving simply could not miss in the first quarter, finishing the quarter with 18 points off of 100% shooting! The Celtics’ very own masked avenger shot 6 of 6 from the floor, including 3 of 3 from the three-point line, plus he also threw in a few free throws for good measure.
Oh man, Kyrie is feeling it! pic.twitter.com/MZ1JNJqc22— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 21, 2017
During the second quarter the defensive pressure that has kept this streak alive for the Celtics was present throughout. Early in the quarter Marcus Smart and Semi Ojeleye worked in tandem as the Celtics’ smash brothers (Boston’s hard-nosed answer for the splash brothers) and held the Mavericks’ shooters back so the Celtics could continue to increase their lead.
Perhaps not surprisingly though, this defensive focus caused both teams to shoot ice cold on offense, continuing the tradition of low-scoring affairs that have become par for the course during the Celtics’ win streak. At times the second quarter felt more like watching a particularly strategic matchup in the FA Premier League than an NBA game, as both teams struggled to make their shots against well-worked defensive schemes, and the score remained fairly static. While this might not make for the most exciting basketball, Brad Stevens has shown that the Celtics can thrive in these defense-driven games.
However, this type of technique only works if everyone remains focused and locked in, and in this game some lapses in concentration allowed the Mavericks to come back from a double-digit deficit to tighten things up heading to halftime. It took some more deadeye shooting from Irving to allow the Celtics to finish the half still in front. At halftime Irving had 25 points, missing only a single shot near the buzzer, and the Celtics held onto the lead going to the break with the scores at 53-49.
Coming back from the break, the momentum shifted to the home team, and the Mavericks took the lead quickly. Coach Stevens tried to keep the team on a tight leash throughout this matchup, using frequent timeouts to make sure everyone on the roster maintained focus, and after Dallas took a slim lead Brad was fast to call an early timeout.
Yet things continued to fall apart for the Celtics during the third quarter as they were unable to keep control on either end of the floor. The Mavericks took a confidence-boosting lead and were able to outplay the Celtics for much of the quarter. Irving’s hot hand had cooled slightly, and the rest of the roster laboured to make an impact.
As the third quarter drew to a close the Celtics had lost the lead after allowing the Mavs to go on a significant run led by Harrison Barnes. Entering the final frame the Celtics had 69 to the Mavericks’ 77, and Irving and Barnes led all scorers, with 30 and 25, respectively.
The fourth quarter started with some Marcus Smart magic as he hit a long-range bomb within seconds. But the Mavericks were able to stay in front with a strong team effort, seeing contributions from up and down their roster.
The Celtics answered back with Jaylen Brown (who quietly put in a very strong performance), Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris making some much-needed late-game buckets. Then Kyrie took it a step further, scoring 5 points in quick succession after some Marcus Smart heroics helped put the Celtics back to within a point with under 3 minutes left on the clock.
The Mavericks then went on a mini run of their own to hold the lead. But of course it was Marcus Smart with the late-game make from three-point land that kept the Celtics in it. An alley-oop pass from Kyrie Irving to Jayson Tatum on the next play made it a tied game with just 31 seconds left on the clock, and Coach Stevens wisely called a timeout.
In the end, though, neither team could take full advantage in the final seconds, and the Celtics went to overtime for the first time this season.
The Celtics and the Mavericks went virtually shot for shot during the overtime period, with Barnes and Irving both dominating as scorers. But it was again Boston’s defensive efforts that allowed them to take control during overtime, isolating Dallas’ scorers and preventing them from working their way back in. A few final buckets from Brown and Irving put the Celtics in front with less than a minute to go in the overtime period, and the Celtics didn’t look back from there, winning the game 110-102.
This guy is pretty clutch I guess pic.twitter.com/IYZZukWieL— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 21, 2017
After a sluggish start the Celtics fought valiantly and got the tough overtime win against a hungry team to keep the streak alive.