By Jessica Camerato
BOSTON -- Last minute heroics werent going to cut it. Not this time.
Not when the last game (a loss) had been decided by two points.
Not when the opposing team had figured out how to stifle their defense.
The Boston Celtics needed more than that to beat the Dallas Mavericks. On Friday night, a failed lob attempt with 2.5 seconds left was not enough.
The Celtics (37-12) and Mavericks (34-15) met for the first time this season on November 8 in Dallas. The Mavericks pulled out an 89-87 win off a Dirk Nowitzki jumper with 17 seconds left. Rajon Rondo missed a three-point attempt with three seconds to go and Kevin Garnett failed to connect on a game-tying shot as time ran out.
The Mavericks proved they would not be beaten by a last-second effort. It would take four quarters, not four ticks of a clock, to put them away.
But that didnt happen.
There were problems from the start of the Celtics 101-97 loss. The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead with a balanced attack from their starting lineup and Jason Terry off the bench. The Celtics found themselves in a fairly uncommon position this season - trailing by seven after the first quarter.
Even though the Celtics outscored the Mavericks in the second half to cut the deficit to three, 54-51, at halftime, the Mavs had already set the tone for the game.
We have to get a great start, said Kendrick Perkins, who made his first start of the season since coming back from knee surgery. First and third quarters, weve got to do a better job of getting out. I thought they got into a good rhythm. They got everything we didnt want them to get.
The Celtics found themselves down by eight less than three minutes into the second half. They fought back, though, to tie the game at 77 apiece at the end of three quarters.
The next 12 minutes would be a battle, one where every mistake was magnified and a misstep could be the difference between a win and a loss.
It was just one of those games, said Paul Pierce. Youve got two heavyweights going at it. It just came down to whoever had the ball last and made the last shot.
The Celtics looked like they were going to take charge of the game in the fourth quarter. Perkins was dominating the glass, Pierce and Ray Allen were hitting three-pointers, the Celtics were limiting the Mavericks assists. They held a six-point lead with 2:43 to go.
But then came a three-point play by Nowitzki, a steal by Tyson Chandler, and finally, a trey by Jason Kidd against Allen to put the Mavs up, 97-99, with seconds left.
As they have done so many times before, the Celtics drew up a last-second play to take back the game. They came up with two options - a lob from Rondo to Garnett or a pass to Allen,
depending on who was open. With 2.5 seconds left, Rondo went for the lob. And missed the mark.
Doc Rivers isnt faulting Rondo for the end result - I have no problem with it at all, he said. The Celtics didnt lose because of one pass.
The problem was, the game should not have come down to one pass. Not when the opponent is more than capable of pulling off last-minute heroics just like the Celtics are.
We didnt execute down the stretch like we were supposed to, Glen Davis told CSNNE.com. As far as defensively, we got into some sticky situations and they made some big plays. A team like that, youve got to be precise on everything you do.
We slipped up and they ended up winning the game.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba