Dirk leads Mavs to gritty win in Boston

Dirk leads Mavs to gritty win in Boston

Published Jan. 11, 2012 9:07 p.m. ET

The four NBA players who have the highest career scoring
averages as visitors to Boston are all single-moniker icons.

There is Jordan, Kareem
and Wilt.

And then there is Dirk, who on Wednesday waited 47 minutes and 35 seconds
before making his mark on the outcome in a 90-85 victory over the Celtics.

5.1 seconds remaining, Dirk hit the game-winning basket.

"Everybody's looking at you
and your team really depends on you," said Nowitzki, who before completing
the three-point play had taken just 10 shots. "So I like to be in the position where I
can make something happen."

This showdown between elite teams from the two conferences might've been
expected to be about star power. After all, bursting from these contenders'
rosters are five of the top 35 scorers in NBA history, plus nine players — counting
the sidelined Jason Kidd — with a combined 73 All-Star selections.

But Boston's quartet of standouts — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and
Ray Allen — were all involved in dubious plays that inspired the Mavs' third consecutive
win and dropped Boston to 4-5.

Pierce hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 85-all with 25 seconds remaining, but
it was just one of his two made buckets on the night as he scored only seven

Garnett was the defender, who was bedeviled on Nowitzki's right-handed,
dribble-drive to the basket. Earlier in the contest, KG was defending Nowitzki
by bear-hugging him, an action that caused Dallas coach Rick Carlisle to march
onto the floor and earn an ejection — leading to a 24-6 Dallas run.

"It's my opinion," Carlisle said after the game, "but Kevin Garnett
shouldn't be allowed to bear-hug Dirk coming off the screen. I wanted to make
my point. If it costs me a few thousand dollars, so be it."

Boston did have a final chance, but failed when Rondo — otherwise a force with
24 points — inexplicably tried to bounce-pass his inbounds toss to Allen. The
Boston marksman failed to field the short-hop as the ball caromed harmlessly
out of bounds, sealing the 6-5 Mavs' sixth win in eight games after the
defending champs opened the year 0-3.

Garnett qualified this game as a "team loss."

"I don't play Dirk by myself; I play him with the other four guys out
there on the floor," Garnett said. "We don't do anything individual
other than shower here. Other than that, we do things together."

The Mavs have made this positive run together, too, despite the absence of
Kidd, who has missed these three consecutive victories with a sore back. He's
expected back for a weekend home stand against the Bucks and Kings.

But without him, Dallas has relied on some efforts and results that aren't
exactly part of the blueprint.

Delonte West, a former Celtic, handled the point guard position and despite
some erratic moments, sparked the Mavericks on both ends of the floor.

"(West) never stops competing,'' praised Carlisle.

Dallas' centers, Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi, combined for 16 points and 17
rebounds, matching the sort of output the Mavs received from the center
position last year when free-agent departee Tyson Chandler was the starter.

Does Dallas miss Chandler's defense? More than likely, but the Mavs allowed
just 86.9 points per game in their last six.

Dallas employed little-used forward Brian Cardinal for just three minutes, but
he was on the floor to finish on both the defensive and offensive ends.
Conspicuous in his absence was Lamar Odom, the ex-Lakers star who contributed
six points, two rebounds and two assists. Odom did make a momentum-grabbing
3-pointer, but played just 15 minutes.

Dallas also struggled mightily from the free-throw line, an oddity for a team
that for the last decade has been among the NBA's best. The Mavs went 14-for-25
for the game and just 6-for-14 in the final quarter.

But it's in the fourth quarter when Jason Terry joins Nowitzki as two of the
game's great closers.

"That's what we're about," Terry said of his belief that the
Mavericks match their star power with resiliency. "We've got too much
heart and too much courage to count out."

Terry finished with 18 points, which included seven in the fourth quarter. Dirk
scored just 16 points (his lowest output in Boston), but nine in the fourth,
leaving him three points shy of the 23,000-point milestone.

Still, in the end, Nowitzki continued to follow in the
legendary footsteps of Celtics foes like Michael Jordan (career average at
Boston: 32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (30.7) and Wilt Chamberlain (29.8). He didn't
reach his at-Boston average of 27.8; he just needed one gritty drive with five
seconds left.

Garnett was complimentary.

"I just tried to make it tough for him," Garnett said. "A player
like Dirk, man, that man has like a million moves. I just tried to play the
consistencies and just make it tough for him. He made a hell of a shot."

Nowitzki was humble.

"I was able to get to the rim," Nowitzki said. "I didn't even
see the ball go in to be honest. I just threw it up there."