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The Boston Celtics had just committed their 20th turnover, a frustrated Kevin Garnett was sitting on the bench with five fouls and coach Doc Rivers was already in the locker room after being ejected.
And it was still only the third quarter in Dallas.
Oh well, the defending champion Celtics were already guaranteed having the most wins going into the All-Star break, no matter what happened Thursday night.
"The coach is gone in the last game before the All-Star break, you can pack it in," Paul Pierce said. "But this group is very competitive. We're going to fight."
Pierce scored 18 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, including the shot that finally gave the Celtics their first lead right before Garnett returned, and two more baskets in the final 1:12 to seal a 99-92 victory.
"I'm going to take the blame for this," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We played the Paul Pierce play different ways and had some of our best guys guarding him, but we should have double-teamed him."
Dallas didn't, and the defending champion Celtics go into the break with a 44-11 record and a nine-game road winning streak.
Boston had trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter before a wild sequence in which Garnett drew three fouls in 10 seconds - two personals and a technical - battling with Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas' lone All-Star who finished with 37 points.
Rivers got two technical fouls in that stretch.
That fired up the Celtics, and Nowitzki then missed six straight field goals before hitting a 3-pointer that tied it at 89 with 1:58 left in the game. Pierce then made two more free throws before Nowitzki pulled up for another 12-footer.
Pierce then put Boston ahead to stay with an 11-footer. After taking an elbow to the head from a charging Nowitzki, who was called for the foul at the other end, Pierce made another jumper.
"It gives us great satisfaction, the way we finished the game after they jumped on us at the start," Ray Allen said. "I like the way we fought back."
The Celtics made only one of their first nine shots and trailed 9-2 early. They never led until Pierce made a tying 13-foot jumper while being fouled by Josh Howard with 5:37 left, then added the free throw to make it 85-84.
After Nowitzki missed two more shots, Pierce hit two more free throws after Howard's sixth foul with 3:47 left.
"You could say we lost focus, you could say they got hot, which Paul did," said Howard, who had 17 points for Dallas.
Allen had 20 points the night after hyperextending his right thumb against New Orleans and plans to still play in the All-Star game with Pierce and Garnett. Rajon Rondo had 19 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists for his second career triple-double, both this season.
It was drastically different from when Dallas played in Boston last month, when the Celtics built a 31-point lead before halftime and had a season-high 74 points at the break. Boston won that game 124-100.
This time, the Mavs led 51-40 at halftime - and Rivers only watched about 10 more minutes before being tossed.
"Doc knew we were flat. He was trying to get us going. It was good," said assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, who took over for Rivers. "Once he got tossed, I thought that galvanized us, energized us."
This program aired on February 13, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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