DALLAS -- It was vintage Antoine Walker.
Guarding Paul Pierce early in the third quarter, Walker started jawing with his friend and former teammate. No stranger to competitive banter, Pierce told Walker he was "ready to turn it up." Walker first responded with defense, forcing Pierce to commit a costly turnover. But no sooner had the ball bounced over the sideline than Walker let loose an earful punctuated by a playful grin.
In the second and final matchup between the teams, the interaction between Walker and Pierce sufficed for high drama at a soldout American Airlines Center. Unlike the first time the teams met, the game did not hinge on a last-second shot.
With trash-talking a notable exception, there was less emotion involved for Walker this time. As a result, Walker played what Dallas coach Don Nelson called "his best game" for the Mavericks. With 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists, Walker helped Dallas dismantle Boston, 120-104.
After the Celtics closed within 7 points (90-83) with 8 minutes 51 seconds remaining in the fourth, the Mavericks pulled away with a 21-7 run. In another vintage Walker moment, the former Celtic capped the run with a 3-pointer.
"The first game was more emotional," said Walker. "I was on the go all the time. I just never was focused. This time, I'm at home. I'm more relaxed. I'm 60 games in. It's kind of old to me now. It's a different team. I'm going against a different coach. Only three players that I played with are on that team."
That may have been true for Walker, but the game had that same old Texas feel for the Celtics. Dallas has won nine of its last 11 meetings with Boston, including four in a row at home. Last night, the Mavericks disrupted the Celtics' defensive scheme, which is designed to stop opponents from getting to the rim. Dallas outscored Boston, 64-52, in the paint, and outrebounded Boston, 46-27. The Celtics' 27 rebounds represented a season low for a Mavericks opponent this season.
Mark Blount was the Celtics' only bright spot inside as he scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Dallas scored 19 second-chance points and converted 17 Boston turnovers into 26 points. The Mavericks shot 53 percent and had six players in double figures, including leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists). The Celtics shot 35 percent in the first quarter, then recovered enough to finish at 51 percent for the contest.
"We can't go out there expected to outscore the Mavs," said Pierce (17 points, 5 assists). "We had a hard time stopping them. And when we did, we couldn't rebound the ball. You don't get a chance to win when that happens. They are a good team with great players. We just didn't put ourselves in position to win the game. They killed us in almost every aspect of the game."
And the Mavericks did so from the start. Dallas, coming off a 1-point loss to Atlanta, led by as many as 18 points (32-14) at the end of the first quarter before entering halftime ahead, 59-46.
In the first quarter, Dallas sprinted to an early 8-1 lead. A 13-2 run midway through the first pushed the Mavericks ahead, 23-7, with 4:39 remaining in the quarter. Boston crept with in 11 points (25-14) before Dallas closed the quarter with a 7-0 run.
"We couldn't match up in the first quarter," said interim coach John Carroll. "We were fighting an uphill battle . . . There were certain things we couldn't overcome, like their offensive rebounding, our inability to protect the paint."
The Celtics tried to cut their deficit below double digits in the second quarter, but only got to 11.
"We had opportunities to get into the game, but any time you give up 64 points in the paint, 16 offensive rebounds, and 17 turnovers, 25 fast-break points against a team like the Dallas Mavericks, it's impossible to win," said Chucky Atkins (19 points). "We weren't communicating good enough." Last night, it was Walker's turn to get his message across.