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The Boston Celtics only had two of their Big Three and one little point guard who made up for the absence of Kevin Garnett.
Six-foot-1 Rajon Rondo had a season-high 12 rebounds on Thursday night, grabbing the ball away from 6-11 Dirk Nowitzki before putting up the game-winning basket to lead the Celtics to a 96-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
"I had the rebound in my hand,'' Nowitzki said, "and then Rondo came out of nowhere and snuck it up to the basket before I could react.''
In Thursday's other NBA games, it was: San Antonio 84, Phoenix 81; Detroit 90, the Los Angeles Lakers 89; Seattle 101, Cleveland 95.
The Celtics improved to 2-1 since Garnett went out with an abdominal strain, with a previous victory over last-place Miami and a loss to Southeast Division-leading Orlando. Boston is 13-0 against the Western Conference, but Dallas is the best team from the West the Celtics have beaten.
"Any game we win without Kevin is important for us, part of our growth process,'' coach Doc Rivers said. "Dallas is a team that we are still trying to catch, in our minds. They've been there. So when we play those types of teams, they're important.''
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen scored 26 points apiece to help the Celtics overcome 31 points and 11 rebounds from Nowitzki.
Nowitzki, who along with Pierce was picked as an All-Star reserve about an hour before the game, made a pair of free throws with 58 seconds left to tie it at 90. The Celtics got the ball to Pierce, but his shot went around the rim and out.
Along came Rondo to grab the ball away from Nowitzki and put in the game-winner.
"He didn't block me out, so I went up under and got the ball,'' Rondo said. "I just wanted to get it up quickly before the defense recognized that I had the ball.''
A miss and an offensive rebound gave the Mavericks the ball out of bounds with 17 seconds left, but Jason Terry's runner was altered to avoid a blocked shot and James Posey came down with the rebound. Posey hit two foul shots, then tipped the ball away from Terry at halfcourt in the closing seconds to ice it.
"Late in the season, we're going to need these guys,'' Pierce said. "And in playoff situations these guys are going to be seasoned and getting the job done.''
The nationally televised game between two of the NBA's top teams drew the usual collection of celebrities at courtside, including Red Sox players Jonathan Papelbon and Coco Crisp. Celtics Hall of Famer Bill Russell got a big cheer when he took his seat near the Mavericks bench.
No players from the New England Patriots this time, though: They're down in Arizona preparing for Sunday's Super Bowl against the New York Giants.
The Celtics had lost two of their last four and five of their last 11 since opening the season 29-3 to earn Rivers the honor of coaching the Eastern Conference at the Feb. 17 All-Star game in New Orleans. Dallas' loss deprived Mavericks coach Avery Johnson of the chance to coach the West, which instead went to the Hornets' Byron Scott.
This program aired on February 1, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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