02/12/2009 Mavericks vs. Boston

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Mavericks Unable to Hold Off Pierce and Celtics

Rajon Rondo finished with his second career triple-double and Paul Pierce made key plays down the stretch for the Boston Celtics as they came back to defeat the Dallas Mavericks 99-92 Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks came into the night looking to avenge last month’s 24-point loss to the Celtics at the Boston Garden. Thanks to a 37-point night from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks found themselves ahead by 15 points early in the second half.

Although the Celtics managed to pull within six heading into the fourth quarter, fans got the sense that the Mavericks were destined to enact some small form of revenge.

Unfortunately, the Mavs experienced a woeful 3-of-15 shooting stretch to begin the fourth quarter, providing just the opportunity Boston needed.

The Celtics capitalized on the Mavs late game shooting struggles by going on an 11-2 scoring spurt to take their first lead of the game on a Pierce free throw with 5:37 left in regulation.

After falling behind by as many as four points, the Mavericks tied the game with less then 2:00 remaining thanks to a 3-point basket from Dirk Nowitzki.

With Mavericks fans on their feet, Pierce would respond. On back-to-back possessions, Pierce connected on near identical 13-foot fade away jump shots to give Boston a four-point lead…one they would not relinquish.

Despite the loss, Rick Carlisle was proud of the manner in which his team battled the defending NBA Champs.

“I told the players they fought their hearts out and really deserved to win the game,” Carlisle said. “Our guys really care about winning and making the most out of this season. That’s why this one really hurts for me. I know how hard they tried. In fact, we probably tried too hard at times.”

Josh Howard, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter, finished the night with 17 points, three rebounds and two assists. Talking to reporters after the game, Howard echoed much of what Carlisle said.

“Overall, we contested on defense, we fought hard and they (Celtics) just made the shots down the stretch,” Howard said. “Our guys haven't backed down from any challenge all season and we will once again need to build some momentum." While Kevin Garnett was sidelined for much of the second half due to foul trouble, Pierce led the Celtic charge by scoring 18 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter. In discussing the Celtics comeback, Pierce said, “We didn’t stop trying to get back in the game. In the fourth quarter, I started to get a rhythm and the guys were going to me at the top of the key. We had a play that was working. We just milked it.” The Mavericks (31-21) will now enjoy nearly a week off before returning to action on Wednesday February 18th, when they host Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets.

On Sunday, Dirk Nowitzki will represent the Dallas Mavericks at the 58th annual NBA All-Star game in Phoenix Arizona (7:00 PM CST on TNT). This will mark Nowitzki’s eighth consecutive All-Star selection.

All Mavericks individual game tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling 214-747-MAVS or by visiting MAVS.com.