Celtics squander big early lead in 106-102 loss to Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks

The Celtics went into their Wednesday night game at TD Garden on a high, riding a three-game win streak and having swept the Thunder and Rockets on the road to start the week. But they were up against a tough test in the visiting Mavericks, winners of four straight and nine of the last 10 against Boston.

The Celts, who seem to have put their first-quarter struggles behind them, got off to another hot start, dominating Dallas on both ends of the floor en route to a commanding 31-16 lead after the first period. Avery Bradley, still coming off the bench, had 12 points in the quarter, which ended with Kelly Olynyk attempting Dirk Nowitzki's patented stepback jumper on the future Hall of Famer.

Nowitzki started the second by demonstrating proper technique for Olynyk's and our benefit:

That was the start of a strong quarter for Nowitzki, who led all scorers at the half with 14 points as the Mavs trimmed the deficit to 54-45. Dallas shot 45.7 percent from the floor in the first half to Boston's 44 percent, but eight offensive rebounds and eight steals translated to the C's taking 15 more shots than the Mavericks.

In the third quarter it was the Mavericks' turn to come out strong, as they tied the game up twice but never took the lead. Meanwhile, the personal fouls piled up for the C's, with Olynyk drawing his fifth and Bradley his fourth in the period, which ended at 78-70 for Boston following a late push.

The Mavs continued to chip away and finally took their first lead of the game on a Deron Williams three-pointer with 4:17 to play. It remained a close affair the rest of the way, but the C's couldn't recover and Isaiah Thomas had a turnover to seal the game with 10 seconds remaining.

Nowitzki led all scorers with 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Wesley Matthews added 18, Williams scored 16 of his own after a slow start and Zaza Pachulia had a double double with 14 points and 12 boards.

For Boston, Thomas had 19 points, Jared Sullinger recorded his fourth double double of the season with 18 and 12 rebounds, Bradley added 18 and Jae Crowder and David Lee scored 14 points each. The loss drops the Celtics to 6-5, half a game behind the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors, who had a three-point lead in Utah at the half.

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Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa