The Dallas Mavericks had an explosive third quarter with clutch late-game shot-making earlier this week, squeaking by with a 95-92 win on the road against the Boston Celtics.
Dallas won for the seventh time in its last eight games, snapping Boston’s five-game winning streak, though at times the Mavericks trailed by as many as 13 points.
The victory marks Dallas’ 14th double-digit comeback win of the season, doubling the seven they had last season.
Dallas faced their 13-point deficit right before halftime, but went into the break trailing by nine at 38-47. Luca Doncic only had nine points by the end of the half, but he left to the locker room at the end of the first quarter with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
“It was really tight,” Doncic said. “I landed, and it was a cramp, then the whole leg was tight.”
He returned late in the second quarter, and appeared to be unbothered by the injury for the rest of the game.
“He loves the stage. There’s no stage that’s big enough for him. He understands and wants to win. He did a great job of putting this team in a position to win,” coach Jason Kidd said, referring to Doncic.
The injury certainly did not seem to hinder Doncic after the halftime break. He scored 11 points in the third quarter alone, while Dorian Finney-Smith added 13 points. Finney-Smith had eight points over a 1:45 stretch as Dallas matched their entire first-half scoring total to outscore Boston 38-26 in just the third quarter.
“That’s the thing about LD; he’s competitive,” Finney-Smith said of Doncic. “When he’s out there, you’re not going to be able to tell he’s hurt. He still put up numbers like he did and wasn’t even moving as fast as he usually does.”
Returning from the injury scare after halftime, Doncic came up big in the game’s final moments. He hit a three-pointer to tie the score at 92 with 1:21 remaining, then assisted Spencer Dinwiddie for the game-winning three-pointer with nine seconds left.
“His patience was very high the whole game,” Kidd said. “He got to the paint. He was patient. He held onto it as long as he could. He looked into the corner to make sure that he could get it to Spencer at the slot, and Spencer did the hardest part, and that was catch and shoot.”
After Dinwiddie’s three-pointer, Dallas still had to overcome a dramatic defensive sequence to escape with the win. Officials called a foul on Doncic as Boston’s Marcus Smart attempted a three-pointer, which would have sent Smart to the free-throw line for three shots.
Instead, several Mavericks began asking Kidd to challenge the foul call as soon as the foul was called. Kidd obliged, and the officials reviewed the play and determined there was no foul.
“I knew it was a successful challenge,” Doncic said.
The Celtics got one more chance to tie the game with a three-pointer, but Jayson Tatum’s last-second long-range attempt was off the mark.
The massive scoring third quarter, along with a stout defense that kept the Celtics scoreless over the last 2:38, propelled Dallas to the win.
Doncic finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, despite having to leave the game due to injury.
Finney-Smith scored 19 points, making 7-of-11 shot attempts. He was also the primary defender on Boston’s Tatum, limiting the All-Star to only 21 points, 17 of which came before halftime. In contrast, Tatum had entered Sunday averaging almost 40 points per game for the five games this month.
Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson also scored in the double-digits, with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
The victory moves Dallas’ record to 16 games above .500 (42-26) for the first time this season. As a bonus, it also spoiled a special day for Boston fans and Celtics legend Kevin Garnett, who was courtside as he awaited a postgame ceremony to retire his No.5 jersey.