Mavs' offense catches up with Big D
After Dirk-less period, scorers complement defense again as streak hits seven in Boston
BOSTON -- Defense wins championships, and the Dallas Mavericks have spent the season talking about it and actually putting it on the floor with a huge assist from Tyson Chandler. But Jason Kidd knows that scoring points along the way makes playing defense a lot more fun.
Friday night's impressive 101-97 win over the Boston Celtics, the Eastern Conference's No. 1 team and the NBA's No. 1 defense, improved Dallas to 24-1 when scoring at least 100 points and 10-0 on the road. The only loss came Jan. 8 against Orlando, 117-107, with Dirk Nowitzki hiding a sprained right knee under one of his designer suits.
That loss was No. 2 in the six-game skid that's now dead and buried under this seven-game win streak, which can go to eight Saturday night at Charlotte. But in those dark days of the Dirk-less slide, the Mavs couldn't muster 90 points, or even 80 on some nights.
Now with Nowitzki back on pace to shoot the highest field goal percentage of his career -- he was 9-of-14 Friday for a game-high 29 points and is 34-of-52 in the past four games -- and creating lanes and shots for everybody else, Dallas can't be stopped.
The Mavs scored 10 unanswered points to finish off the Celtics on their home floor and scored 10 more points than Boston's defense allowed on average through their previous 48 games.
There were times this season and last when, even with Nowitzki healthy, the Mavs wondered how they'd get four guys scoring in double figures. Six did it again Friday night, with J.J. Barea becoming the first to do so, sparked by a nine-point first quarter in his first start of the season.
Dallas tagged Boston with 34 first-quarter points, the most the Celtics have allowed all season. For the game, the Mavs shot nearly 50 percent overall and beyond the arc. Boston hadn't coughed up 100 points since Jan. 17, a span of eight games, to the 3-ball-happy Magic.
"We've got a lot of guys in here," Kidd said, "that put the ball in the basket."
Including Kidd, who pump-faked Ray Allen into the stands, readjusted his feet at the top of the arc and drained the game winner with 2.5 seconds left, lifting Dallas from one point down to two points up.
The final play was designed for Jason Terry, but he was covered so he dropped it down to Nowitzki, who had his back up against Kevin Garnett. Terry's low pass squirted in front of Nowitzki, but he got just enough of a grip on it to guide it to Kidd.
"The pass Dirk made at the end to J-Kidd, it's all about trust," Terry said. "When you trust your teammates like that, good things happen. The bigger thing about it was there was a stretch where we missed three consecutive shots and got four consecutive stops."
There's that defense thing again. Friday's win was a perfect combination of crunch-time defense and nearly full-time motion offense in the half court and plenty of transition. Every starter but DeShawn Stevenson scored in double figures, yet he also hit two big 3-pointers. Chandler went pound for pound with Kendrick Perkins and Garnett for his third consecutive double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
In the past six games, five Mavs have scored in double figures three times, six once and seven twice. They've averaged 106.8 points.
"It's starting to feel like it did a month ago," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're unselfish and we move it good. We have to, or we won't win games."
Even when Terry and Stevenson launched consecutive air balls late in the fourth quarter and the Garden crowd roared as the Celtics went up 97-91 with 2:43 to go, the Mavs remained calm, patient and kept the ball moving -- right down to Kidd's final dagger.
"Even in the fourth quarter, they made that run, but we kept executing," Nowitzki said. "Trix [Marion] had two big layups there. They went up six, but we kept making the extra pass. We're tough to guard if we defend, get rebounds, run, keep the ball hopping. That's a fun way to play."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.