Celtics fall to Dallas on KG Day, 95-92 – Lowell Sun
It’s as if the Celtics gave Kevin Garnett his seat under the basket for this very reason.
Jaylen Brown dunked so completely over Maxi Kleber in the second quarter that he straddled the Dallas forward, finally landing on his feet with a roar, directly in front of Sunday’s guest of honor. Garnett jumped to his feet as Brown walked over and they bumped fists as the crowd screamed along.
They had plenty of cause, as it turned out, beyond the 2008 Celtics alumni in the building, including the semi-surprising appearance of Ray Allen, his feud with Garnett apparently resolved.
But it was a tough time for the Celtics to lose for the first time in six games in what Garnett used to call a “bar fight” — a grueling, offense-deficient 95-92 loss to Dallas that dropped the C’s to a full game behind fourth-place Chicago.
Jayson Tatum, handcuffed most of the night by Dallas coverage, only scored four of his 21 points in the second half, and finished 7-for-22 from the floor. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 26 points, including a big 3-pointer over Rob Williams with 1:21 left.
Spencer Dinwiddie followed with another three with nine seconds left for a 95-92 Dallas lead, leaving Tatum to miss at the buzzer from the top of the circle.
For a Celtics team that had been finishing off opponents throughout the just-truncated five-game win streak, and indeed in many of their games since the start of the new year, there’s something about Dallas that continues to confound them.
Doncic beat them in Dallas with a wild, off-balance 3-pointer on Nov. 6, and continues to come up with the biggest plays in this series.
It helped that the Mavericks hounded Tatum into a rough shooting night, with the Celtics star needing 22 shots to reach 21 points.
“What they did the majority of the game. They went after Jayson,” said Ime Udoka. “Felt like we weren’t as crisp as we had been against the blitzes and traps in the previous games. So that’s what happened. At the end it really came down to both teams were going after their main guys and they made a shot or two more than us. Didn’t feel like we were great in the pocket, you know, catching the ball. We’ve seen it quite a bit this year, Jayson makes the right play, and we weren’t you know, either missed some really good shots or just were a little indecisive in the pocket there. And so that’s really what it came down to. Dinwiddie hits one and a few of our guys miss some open ones.”
After Dinwiddie’s 3-pointer with nine seconds left, Marcus Smart hoisted a deep miss and Doncic was called for the foul, but it was overturned upon video review with 4.9 seconds left. Rob Williams won the resulting jump ball, Dallas had a foul to give on Tatum with 3.5 seconds left, and Tatum missed from the top of the circle at the buzzer.
Doncic’s 11-point third quarter, and especially an overpowering 21-6 run, were responsible for Dallas’ 76-73 lead through three. Though Tatum had 19 (two in the third) and Brown another 12 after three quarters, the Celtics had lost their second quarter flow.
They would never regain it, ultimately shooting 37.5%, including 24.3% from downtown.
It was also another night for the Celtics to lose their patience with the officiating, this time with Udoka and Rob Williams picking up technical fouls. Though both teams ended up attempting 19 free throws, the ratio was lopsided throughout the first half in Dallas’ favor.
“That’s what my complaint was, it’s we are both attacking the basket, both driving and buck your head back, and you give them a foul,” said Udoka. “So we want to play a physical brand of defense, and when the team only shoots nine the rest of the game other than that third quarter, like OK I’m asking for consistency. We’re guarding them the same way the whole time, and so that’s where I got a little frustrated obviously. But those 10 free throws, let alone they still hit 6-for-9 3s in that quarter, so they did some other things well, but that’s where my frustration came from, and giving up 38 in that quarter was obviously too much. But we still had our chances, we were up 13 and they kind of whittled it down in that quarter, but we bounced back in the fourth and our offense kind of stalled.”
But at least, on the night of Garnett’s number retirement, they started in an inspired place. Garnett visited the locker room to informally talk with the players, and Udoka had a KG quote put up on the wall that said, “I want to be known as the best teammate ever.”
“It’s the selfless unselfishness we’re talking about. And you can see it on display tonight,” said Udoka. “Both teams were really blitzing their main guys, and as I’ve said all year, Jayson is just as happy to see our guys feed off of him, and he makes the right play, makes the right pass. Like I said, we weren’t as sharp – we missed some open looks tonight and that’s an example of it. I think we’ve seen that with our play offensively and defensively this year, the way we’ve grown as a team kind of embodies that quote.”