DALLAS — Before every game, you'll find all of the Boston Celtics on the floor, driving to the lane to make lay-ups.
You wouldn't know that's a part of their pregame routine based on how they played against Dallas, a game in which the C's missed a slew of lay-ups and put-backs.
And in doing so, it was more than enough for the Mavericks to lay out the C's and put them back on yet another losing skid - three and counting - as Dallas led from beginning to end in defeating the C's 104-94.
Boston spent the entire game trailing, but certainly put a scare into Dallas in the fourth quarter when they opened with a 7-2 run which included a steal and subsequent lay-up by Jordan Crawford that cut Dallas' lead to 81-75 with more than 10 minutes to play.
After a Dallas time-out, the Mavericks scored six of the game's next eight points to push their lead back to double-digits (87-77) following a 14-foot, pull-up jumper by Darren Collison after Wright stripped the ball from Jeff Green as he tried to drive towards the basket.
Just when the Mavs seemed to have the game back under control, the Celtics mounted another late-game rally which included a driving lay-up by Jeff Green that cut Dallas' lead to 97-92 with less than two minutes to play.
But the Celtics were unable to cut any deeper into the lead, and wound up losing the game - and possibly more with Courtney Lee going down with a leg injury that prevented him from getting up on his own.
The Celtics came in losers in nine of their previous 12 games in Dallas, and didn't do much at the start of the game to change that.
Boston fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first quarter as the Mavericks took a 30-21 lead into the second quarter.
It was a balanced attack by Dallas, although the return of Shawn Marion was huge out of the gates as he grabbed seven rebounds in the first which was more than the Celtics (six) had collectively.
Dallas played with the lead throughout the second quarter, although the C's continued to play well enough to stay within striking distance.
However, the Celtics' efforts at rallying back into the game took a blow when Jeff Green picked up his third personal foul with more than eight minutes to play in the second quarter.
Green's absence on the floor took away one of the C's most important players of late, with Green providing the kind of offensive punch off the bench the Celtics have been wanting from him all season.
But the Celtics have been a scrappy bunch all season, regardless of who was on the floor or not.
After the Mavericks took a 39-29 lead, the Celtics responded with a 10-4 spurt.
But as has been the case in recent end-of-game situations, Boston's defense simply didn't step up to make the necessary plays needed to be successful.
Nothing exemplified this better than the ease with which Brandan Wright scored bucket after bucket after bucket on lay-ups and dunks because Boston's defense didn't rotate to him in time to contest let alone stop him. He finished with a season-high 23 points.
Boston cut the lead down to just four points following a pair of free throws by Chris Wilcox with 2:06 to play in the half.
But the Mavs responded with five straight which included a Dirk Nowitzki 3-pointer. He had 22 points.
As the quarter wore on, the C's continued to miss lay-up attempt after lay-up around the basket.
Dallas led 55-44 at the half, with the Celtics having missed eight lay-ups through the first two quarters of play.
Boston continued its missing-the-easy-one ways in the third quarter, and fell behind by as many as 14 points.
Keeping the Celtics in the game was Brandon Bass.
The former Maverick had 16 points through three quarters of play along with eight rebounds. Bass finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
For Dallas, it was a balanced attack with Dirk Nowitzki (18 points through three quarters) leading the way with solid contributions from a slew of Dallas players as the Mavericks took a 79-68 lead into the fourth quarter.