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Celtics 97, Mavericks 90: Wins somehow come easy for this group

Ty Anderson
December 06, 2017 - 10:41 pm

There’s one thing you can without fail count on happening in today’s NBA: Similar to the way great teams find ways to win even when in improbable circumstances, garbage teams will always find a way to be a garbage team when it matters most. And the Mavericks, a team that came to Boston with a West-low seven wins this season, most definitely fit the bill and looked the part in the fourth quarter of their 97-90 loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night.

Kyrie Irving and the Celtics, meanwhile (and typically), found a way to be great.

(Click here for a complete recap of the game.)

In a first half that was dominated by the C’s inability to capitalize on the few mistakes made by the pesky Mavericks, the Green hurt their cause by converting on just seven of their 20 three-point attempts, with a 4-for-13 start from their bench. It didn’t help the Celtics that both Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (knee) were unavailable, too.  The Mavs, meanwhile, converted on six of their first 11 attempts from downtown, and were led by Dennis Smith Jr.’s 12 points in just 16:01 of action through two quarters.

It all played out to a 10-point Dallas edge through the opening 24 minutes of action.

But their records and talent on each side told you that this was bound to flip, and it did.

The Celtics stormed back with an 8-0 run early in the second half, with back-to-back threes and then an alley-oop finish from Al Horford on a feed from Marcus Smart. And by the 5:41 mark of the third, and in between countless mistakes and poor shots from the Mavericks, the Celtics had their first lead since the closing minute of the first quarter.

But the Mavs were able to keep their heads above water for the remainder of the third, and with their lead still intact, but cut to just three and counting against the surging C’s.

It was almost as if each team already knew the outcome of this game. 

“I thought we played harder,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens, whose team is now off to a staggering 24-4 start on the season, said of his team’s second half adjustments.

A Shane Larkin three-pointer propelled the C’s to a fourth-quarter lead, and even when the Mavericks tied things back up at 85-85, it was some more of that aforementioned closing time magic from Irving that helped iced this game with a 12-2 run from Boston.

We’ve officially hit the point in the season where everything feels like a mere formality with this team. Down double-digits against a team with nothing to lose and shooting the lights out through the opening two quarters plus? No big deal, Irving and Jayson Tatum will hit the court in the fourth quarter. Having to go into the Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele area code of your bench due to injury? No sweat, and if you think there’s any sort of concern with that situation, take a look at Yabu dabbing after sinking a three.

It just feels that there’s a never a slow enough start or cold shooting night to derail this team from accomplishing what they want to when the game’s on the line.

That’s not surprising when you’re about an opponent like the Mavericks, I know. But it is surprising when you consider what this Celtics team was going up against -- from the expectation-altering Gordon Hayward injury on opening night to the general newness of this entire roster, with an 80 percent turnover -- and with this being just Dec. 5.

To expect this Celtics team to gel together this quickly seemed overzealous at best.

But it’s clear that Stevens’ message is getting through, no matter the nightly roster.

"I feel good about where we're headed," Stevens said after the win. "We've got a long way to go.

"Number one concern headed into the season was going to be familiarity, and learning how to play together.. You're not going to have it every night at the highest of high levels on both ends of the court. There are nights like that, but if you can do it most of the time, or most of the possessions, then you've got a good chance."

So maybe there’s another thing you count on in this NBA: These Celtics.

JBL Audio Stat of the Game: Jayson Tatum is the first Celtics rookie to score at least 15 points in four consecutive games since Paul Pierce did so in Apr. 1999. 

 JBL is the Official Sound of Jayson Tatum, The Boston Celtics, and the NBA.

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