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Mavericks Use "Toughness and Togetherness" in 89-87 Win

There was an electric feel at the American Airlines Center as the Boston Celtics, the defending Eastern Conference Champions, made their lone appearance in Dallas and the Mavericks beat the Celtics with a 89-87 victory.  It's hard to imagine there is a playoff-feel to a game in early November, but this had to be about as close as one game could feel.

The surprise move of the evening was the insertion of DeShawn Stevenson into the starting lineup and moving Jason Terry to the bench.  As Carlisle put it, the move was made to, "even out our rotation a little bit...the guy (Stevenson) is a pro.  I'm very happy for him and very happy for the team too."  The evening out process worked in the Mavericks favor as the Mavericks bench outscored Boston's bench 35-21.  Stevenson acknowledged that he found out about the move in practice and took on the challenge of guarding Ray Allen, "I tried to stay on Ray," said Stevenson.  "Ray is a terrific shooter, I tried to make him put on the floor...I think me and Jet did an awesome job."

Dirk Nowitzki further explained the move to insert Stevenson into the starting lineup, "We tried to make an effort to make our bench strong.  You've gotta give Stevenson a lot of credit," said Nowitzki.  "It's not easy to not to play for five games straight and stay ready and come out and play like that.  I'm definitely happy for him."

Boston rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second quarter and 10 points at halftime to lead by six in the third quarter.  It took nearly 3 minutes for the Mavericks to make their first bucket in the second half.  The Celtics really put the clamps down, defensively, and the Mavericks used the Boston defense as a weapon.  The Mavericks entered the penalty situation around the 6-minute mark and they took advantage with 10 free-throw attempts.  That eventually led to a 1-point lead entering the 4th quarter.  Early in the season, Boston had a record of 5-1 when entering the 4th quarter with a lead so taking the lead into the final frame was huge for Dallas.  

Rick Carlisle mentioned that set plays went out the window due to Boston's ability to lock into what Dallas wanted to do.  "The X's and O's come and go, but the toughness and the togetherness are things that define your season."  The Mavericks used a critical 15-7 run in the last 5:44 of the 4th quarter to seal the victory.  Dirk Nowitzki contributed 10 of those points and Jason Terry accounted for the other 5.  Jokingly, Jason Terry attributed the final push by Dirk towards the ritual head-shaving, "You see he (Dirk) cut his hair, he's back to his MVP-Status.  That's what he was doing when he won the MVP."

The lineup to finish the game consisted of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson ChandlerCaron Butler was inactive during the final quarter, which Coach Carlisle cited, "mild back spasms."  With Butler out, Carlisle said, "We really had that group in there out of necessity.  I'm not saying they wouldn't have finished anyway, but when we're down Caron, it really took the decision-making out of it."  It does appear that lineup provides the best mix of flow for the team on offense and defense.

Tyson Chandler recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds.  Chandler used the loss against Denver as an additional source of motivation.  "That last loss (to Denver) hurt, I was up until about four in the morning just staring at the ceiling, just recapping the entire game," Chandler said. "It's one thing to talk about what you're going to do, but I wanted to come out tonight and lift my team with my play and try to energize them."  Coach Carlisle believes that Chandler has already emerged as, "one of our heart and soul guys."  It's easy to see that the subtle move to acquire Chandler could pay off huge dividends over the season as the big man takes on the responsibility of the toughest cover in the low post.

Again, it was a big-game feel at the AAC and it is a banner victory for this team.  Is it a win that can generate a lot of momentum going forward?  "It depends on what happens the next week," Carlisle said.  "When you get momentum, you must work to keep it and build on it."  Momentum can continue to build on Wednesday night in Memphis but the Mavericks have to truly feel good by beating Boston at their own game.