Dallas used a 22-6 run early in the fourth quarter to break open a close game and extend the Celtics’ losing streak to four games with a 112-100 victory Wednesday night.
“We worked on being able to close out games early in the season defensively,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who led Dallas with 36 points. “Offense will come and go, but defense is what wins games down the stretch. Five or six good solid minutes on defense set the tone in the fourth quarter.”
Keith Van Horn added 21 for the Mavericks, who won for the ninth time in 11 games and continued to excel on the road. They have league’s third-best road record at 24-11.
Since winning 11 of 12 after acquiring Antoine Walker, the Celtics and their star have slumped. Walker has shot just 33 percent during the four-game slide.
After Ricky Davis cut the Mavericks’ lead to 77-76 with 11:15 left, Van Horn, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse combined to score 17 points during the pivotal run, giving Dallas its biggest lead of the game at 99-82.
The Celtics pulled to within 101-92 with 2:12 remaining on a runner by Walker, but Nowitzki converted two three-point plays in the next minute to put the game out of reach.
“I thought we played great defense when we needed to,” Stackhouse said. “We were the better defensive team tonight and that made the difference.”
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 21 points. Ricky Davis and Walker each added 18.
“We are not playing well and it’s at the wrong time of year,” Pierce said. “We’ve run into a wall but we need to learn from this experience.”
With Dallas leading 63-57 halfway through the third quarter, the Celtics responded with a 9-0 run, capped by Walker’s layup.
“I thought we lost to a better team tonight, especially the way we played,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t think we played as a team for most of the game.”
Nowitzki lifted the Mavericks to a 46-43 halftime lead with 12 second-quarter points, going 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
Van Horn has shot 31-of-54 from the field in the last four games. Dallas shot 65 percent in the second half after shooting 37 percent in the first half.
“Dirk made some big shots down the stretch for us,” Van Horn said. “Coach (Avery) Johnson knows how to use big guys like myself and Dirk that can play different spots on the court.”
Stackhouse returned to the Mavericks’ lineup after missing 20 of 24 games with a groin injury. … The Mavericks swept the season series from Boston for the fifth time in six years. … Gary Payton had seven rebounds in the first quarter, two shy of his season high. … Nowitzki, Davis and Walker all received technical fouls in the second quarter. Walker and Davis came off the bench to intercede in a potential altercation between Nowitzki and Kendrick Perkins.