The Celtics have won eight of their last 10 games to climb within one-half game of New York and Miami for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Boston shot 50 percent from the floor and made 10-of-16 3-pointers in a 104-100 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.
“It was just a gutsy win,” Celtics coach John Carroll said afterward. “I didn’t feel as though we were playing like cornered rats. And I felt at this time in the year, I needed to see more desperation.”
“Somebody else on this team is going to have score besides Paul Pierce in order for us to win games,” said Atkins, who is averaging 12.8 points in 11 games with Boston. “I was just trying to take what was given to me.”
The Celtics face a tough test with back-to-back road games against Dallas and San Antonio.
The Mavericks have struggled of late, winning just three of their last eight games to fall to fifth in the Western Conference.
Dallas is coming off a 111-110 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. It marked the Mavericks second loss to the Hawks this season.
“This is such a big loss for us,” said Nowitzki. “We’re right there with everyone and trying to get home court (in the playoffs). To lose to Atlanta is inexcusable.”
The Mavericks are now in danger of losing both games in the season series to the Celtics. Boston won the previous meeting 105-103 at the FleetCenter on Dec. 17.
STANDINGS (through March 17): Celtics - 4th place, 11 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division. Mavericks - 3rd place (tied), 4 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Celtics - Pierce, 23.1 ppg and 5.1 apg; Pierce and Blount, 6.7 rpg. Mavericks - Nowitzki, 21.4 ppg; Nowitzki and Walker, 8.7 rpg; Nash, 8.3 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Celtics, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 17; Celtics, 105-103. At Boston, Pierce had 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Celtics. Walker scored just seven points for Dallas and missed all six 3-pointers in his first game against the Celtics since they traded him Oct. 20.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Celtics - 16-18 on the road; Mavericks - 29-5 at home.