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Celtics outlast Mavericks 97-90 for fourth consecutive win

Kyrie Irving comes alive again in clutch time. Al Horford stuffs the stat sheet.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Boston, Massachusetts — The Celtics (22-4) completed a season series sweep of the Dallas Mavericks (7-18) by pulling away in the fourth quarter en route to a 97-90 win. It was Boston’s fourth consecutive victory.

The Mavericks, who had won 6 of their last 8 games entering tonight, caught fire in the first half. Dallas shot 47.6 percent and was a +8 at the free throw line through two quarters.

The Celtics allowed 57 points by halftime and dug themselves into a 10-point deficit. They turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, limiting Dallas to only 31 percent shooting. They cut the lead to three after three quarters, and pulled away from the Mavericks in the fourth.

After pouring in 47 points against the Mavs on November 20, Kyrie Irving was outstanding again tonight, and finished with 23 points and 5 helpers on 10-of-18 shooting. Per usual, the MVP candidate came alive in clutch time with 7 points, 1 steal, and 1 assist in the final four minutes of the game to help the C’s pull away.

After a brief confrontation with Dennis Smith Jr. in the first quarter, Irving decided to take out his aggression on the young rookie. Kyrie’s offensive barrage included this nifty hesitation move that left Smith Jr. in the dust.

Irving also displayed some sensational defensive recovery skills with this backboard pinning block:

Once again, Al Horford stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists. The Dallas bigs couldn’t figure out how to defend Horford, who terrorized them from the outside and rolling to the rim.

Jayson Tatum added 17 points and 10 boards on a clean 5-of-11 shooting night. He also upped his league-leading three-point percentage by going 2-for-3 from behind the arc.

In a contest that prominently featured three German players, Maxi Kleber was the most impactful of the group. The rookie combo forward finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Kleber, who entered the night with only 4 blocks on the season, sent back multiple monster denials in one possession in the second quarter.

Harrison Barnes led Dallas with 19 points and 7 boards. For the second consecutive contest between these teams, Barnes was unstoppable when he was able to get isolation catches near the free throw line.

Other than Shane Larkin and Daniel Theis, the Celtic bench struggled mightily on a night where Boston was missing two key rotation players. Larkin contributed 11 points, 2 dimes, and 2 steals in a semi-revenge game against the team that drafted him in 2013. Theis, the other bright spot, finished with an efficient 7 points and 11 rebounds in 17 minutes.

For the second unit, inconsistent offense and poor shot creation has been a major issue as of late, and this game was no different. The backups were a combined -20, and looked lost in the first half without Marcus Morris’ scoring presence. The lack of offensive production resulted in surrendered leads in the second and fourth quarters.

Morris (knee rehabilitation) sat out as he continues to monitor some nagging left knee soreness. In total, the combo forward has missed 11 of Boston’s 26 games this season. Morris remains on a minutes restriction.

Jaylen Brown (inflamed right eye) was also a late scratch. The team is calling it a non-basketball related injury, and his status for Friday’s game remains undetermined.

Next up, the Celtics will travel to San Antonio for a nationally televised matchup against the Spurs (16-8, 3rd place in the West) on Friday night. Reports are circulating that two-way superstar Kawhi Leonard could make his season debut. Boston downed San Antonio 108-94 in the TD Garden on October 30. The C’s have not had a season series sweep against the Spurs since 2011.

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