All it took was the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks for the Boston Celtics to get back on track.
Boston snapped a two-game losing streak with a 109-103 victory over the short-handed Mavericks on Wednesday at American Airlines Center. The Celtics are now 18-7 on the season after Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way in the latest effort on the road.
The Mavericks were unable to build on their impressive win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday but are still 18-9 and sitting in playoff position in the Western Conference.
Notable Player Stats
- BOS G Kemba Walker: 32 points, five rebounds and three assists on 5-of-10 shooting from three
- BOS F Jayson Tatum: 24 points and eight rebounds
- BOS G Jaylen Brown: 26 points and nine rebounds
- DAL F Kristaps Porzingis: 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks
- DAL G Seth Curry: 20 points and four rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting from three
- DAL G Jalen Brunson: 10 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds
Celtics' Trio Takes Over on the Road
Dallas wasn't the only team playing short-handed Wednesday, as Boston was without Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart.
Smart was a major loss on the defensive side seeing as how he is a primary reason the Celtics are No. 8 in the league in defensive rating, per NBA.com. Their absences also meant Walker, Tatum and Brown were further under the spotlight, although teams can do far worse than that trio when it comes to carrying the offense.
Walker in particular has been impressive of late coming off a 29-point performance against the Philadelphia 76ers and 44-point performance against the Indiana Pacers. He picked up right where he left off with 16 first-quarter points alone by slicing through the defense off the bounce, getting out in transition and hitting from the outside.
Dallas started aggressively switching out on him and utilizing the bigger Dorian Finney-Smith, but Tatum and Brown played off the attention the point guard drew and took over for stretches.
While neither consistently found the touch from deep, they attacked the rim with the additional space and gave Boston the lead until Walker was ready for crunch time. Walker then drilled multiple triples down the stretch, dictated the tempo and made key free throws to prevent a late comeback.
Without Doncic, the Mavericks didn't have the firepower to counter three All-Star-caliber talents when the game was hanging in the balance.
Porzingis and Curry Not Enough for Mavs
Doncic's absence naturally put the onus on Kristaps Porzingis, especially since he has been playing so well of late.
The big man put up 26 points and 12 boards in the win over the Bucks and now has four straight games of 20 or more points and three straight double-doubles. Being the No. 1 option is not an unfamiliar role for Porzingis considering it wasn't long ago he was seen as the savior for the New York Knicks, and he wasted little time making an impact Wednesday.
It looked as if he would spearhead a win at first as he controlled the boards, unleashed multiple dunks and protected the rim, but he fouled out in the fourth quarter and was not on the floor in the waning seconds.
That left the offense in Seth Curry's hands, which was a solid alternative. He scored 30 points on Thursday against the Detroit Pistons and 26 points against the Bucks behind the ability to stretch the defense with his perimeter shooting.
He connected on four three-pointers Wednesday, including two in the final four minutes as Dallas attempted one final push. He also mixed in a teardrop in the lane and continued his torrid scoring pace, but there weren't enough supporting pieces to keep up with the threesome on the other side.
No other Mavericks player scored more than Tim Hardaway Jr.'s 13 points, and that came on an abysmal 4-of-17 shooting from the field. It wasn't enough without Doncic to provide much-needed counterpunches.
Both teams face Eastern Conference foes Friday. Dallas is at the Philadelphia 76ers, while Boston hosts the Detroit Pistons.