Building off their victory against the Houston Rockets, the Celtics held on against the Dallas Mavericks, 119-110 at American Airlines Center Monday night, behind strong efforts from their star duo.
With Kristaps Porzingis out dealing with knee inflammation, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 73 points to overcome Luka Doncic's 33-point triple-double. The victory improved the C's record to 34-10, while the Mavs dropped to 24-19 on the season.
Tatum finished with a game-high 39 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, Brown scored 34 points, and Jrue Holiday added 17 points, six assists for the Celtics. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 33 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists. Kyrie Irving dropped 23 points, while Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 points for the Mavericks off the bench.
Despite playing on a second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics were energized and ready to play.
"It's a mindset game. We wanted to come out and play a little bit better than we were playing before, even though we won last game in Houston. We wanted to come out with the right mentality and the right mindset so today we came out from the jump and we were ready to go," said Brown in a postgame interview with NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin.
Although the Celtics held a comfortable lead for the majority of the second-half, Dallas wouldn't go away easily. After trailing by double digits, Doncic came up big late, making a tough step-back 3-pointer on Derrick White to cut the deficit to seven points (103-96) with 5:01 remaining in the game.
Brown would follow it up with a fadeaway jumper at the free-throw line over Doncic. Less than a minute later, with Tatum drawing attention, he dished it out to Holiday at the 3-point line, who then tossed it over to Brown on the right wing, knocked down a clutch trey over Hardaway Jr., and converted the and-one. Brown carried that energy over to the defensive end, blocking Maxi Kleber on the Mavs' next possession.
After letting Brown take over offensively in isolation down the stretch, Tatum made his impact on defense felt with a blindside block on Hardaway Jr., and grabbing the rebound -- a huge defensive stop which ultimately sealed the victory for the Celtics, who were up 113-105 with 1:14 left to play.
Against two of the best scorers in the league in Doncic and Irving, Boston's defense, especially late in the fourth quarter, played an integral role in keeping the game under control.
"We all had to be on a string, together as a unit, because those guys can score with the best of them, so you gotta be careful, the game can get out of hand," said Tatum in his postgame presser when asked about guarding Irving and Doncic. "We did a good job just trying to make it tough. That's the most you can do."
The Celtics missed Porzingis' offense early on, as the team struggled out the gate -- shooting only 8-of-22 from the field and 1-of-10 from deep as a team in the first quarter.
Luckily Tatum, who has struggled with his efficiency as of late (32% shooting over his last five games), got off to a hot start, getting to the line early with four free throws. With Boston's offense lacking production across the board, Tatum took control at the end of the first quarter. Jrue Holiday started Boston's resurgence with the team's first 3-pointer of the game (0-of-7 before that) with 3:30 left in the period.
Just over four minutes into the second quarter, Boston made five of their first nine shots, which later contributed to their 19-5 run over a five minute span.
After Tatum carried the load in the opening quarter, Brown made a series of highlight plays to spark the Celtics' offense in the second. Dribbling right, Brown went behind the back, dropping Doncic to the floor, and drained a mid-range shot on the right wing. Brown targeted Doncic on the next possession, posting him up, drawing a foul, and drained the shot in the process -- pushing the Celtics to a 51-39 advantage.
"Just being aggressive that's all it was, it's basketball," said Brown in his postgame comments when asked about the crossover play. "In between the lines a lot of stuff happens. Credit to him for attempting to play some sort of defense, but it was just me being aggressive, that was it. You could be on the other side of that at any point so, just a good play."
Dallas responded however, to get within six (65-59) heading into the break after being down by as much as 14 previously.
Holiday kicked off the second half with two big shots from beyond the arc to push Boston's lead to 15. The Mavericks didn't let the deficit get out of control, despite the C's offense -- as Brown and Tatum combined for 17 of their 29 points in the third alone -- to put them ahead 94-83 to start the final frame.
"This is a tough part of the season and mindset and mentality is gonna shine through," said Brown after the win. "This was a good example of that tonight. On a back-to-back, team came out. Started out hot and we were just able to roll on. Down a guy, KP [Kristaps Porzingis] our big fella wasn't playing, but we found a way to get a win anyway."
The Celtics will get some much needed rest, as they won't visit the Miami Heat (24-19) until Thursday night, before beginning a seven-game home stand. TNT has the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET.
Boston hit 47% of its attempts from the field, while the Mavericks made 44% of their shots, including 35% from three. The Celtics were out-rebounded 48-44 by Dallas, but made up for it with a 26-24 advantage in assists. Boston also had only six turnovers in the game compared to the Mavericks' 10.
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