BOSTON (AP)—Paul Pierce reached over and gave Kevin Garnett a hearty slap on the back as they laughed off the suggestion that now, with virtually everything going right, would be a good time to buy a lottery ticket.
“I’ve got a lottery ticket already,” Pierce said after watching Garnett score 23 points and help shut down Dirk Nowitzki to lead Boston to its eighth straight win, 124-100 over the Dallas Mavericks. “That’s my man. I knew him when he had a jean jacket.”
Reserve Eddie House also scored 23—including seven 3-pointers—and Ray Allen scored 20 of his 23 points in the first half as the Celtics opened a 27-point lead and coasted to their sixth straight double-digit victory.
Since a 2-7 slump that was the worst of the new Big Three era, the defending NBA champions have won eight in a row by an average of 16.2 points—almost two points a game better than their margin of victory in the franchise-record 19-game winning streak earlier this season.
“I just think we’re playing together,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “In the 19-game winning streak, we were winning games but in my opinion we weren’t playing Celtics basketball the way we established last year.”
Jason Terry scored 27 for the Mavericks, who have won just three of their last nine games. Nowitzki had 18, but the Dallas 7-footer shot 4-for-17 from the field and had the ignominy of having his shot blocked by the 6-foot-1 House in the second quarter.
House made seven of his first nine tries from 3-point range and finished 7-for-11, prompting his teammates to campaign for him to be invited to the 3-point shooting contest at the All-Star game.
“I think he needs to go,” Pierce said, though Allen was 4-for-5 from 3-point range and is second in the league with 112 3-pointers made. “He (House) is one of the quickest triggers in the league, as well as one of the most accurate. It would be nice to have a representative of the team, if Ray doesn’t do it.”
Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 14 assists for the Celtics, who shot 65 percent in the first half; their 74 first-half points were a season high for them and the most allowed in any half for Dallas. The Mavericks were wrapping up a four-game, seven-day road trip with a matinee against the defending champs, and they looked like it.
“I don’t know if that’s the toughest scenario you could have, but it’s close,” Rivers said. “And we were just making everything.”
But coach Rick Carlisle said he thought his players were ready.
“I thought they were really looking forward to the game,” he said. “Boston was great, and we needed to be better. We haven’t come across a team that plays this effective defensively.”
Boston led by 15 after one quarter by 12 with 9:10 left in the second before scoring 15 straight points—and 21 of 26—to take a 64-33 lead.
Dallas cut the deficit back to 27 points and Nowitzki was going up for a layup when House stripped him of the ball under the basket and started a fast break that ended with Allen feeding Garnett for a crowd-pleasing alley-oop.
The Celtics hit 100 points with 50 seconds left in the third quarter. Garnett and Paul Pierce, who scored eight points, came out with 3:17 left in the third quarter, and all of the Boston starters sat out the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter got chippy with one double-technical on Leon Powe and James Singleton, and another that was called on the Mavericks bench. Although TV cameras focused on owner Mark Cuban, who was complaining, the technical was apparently against assistant coach Mario Elie.