Fans back in the building weren’t enough to will the Boston Celtics to victory Monday night, but a difference could be felt as the team nearly erased a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
The Celtics ultimately came up short, 115-109, but the experience was a positive one. Boston will look to build on it when it hosts the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Monday’s contest tipped off a seven-game homestand for Boston, which played in front of fans at TD Garden for the first time in more than a year. With 12 percent capacity allowed under the state of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 protocols, the building had new life to it, most notably during a 13-0 run in the final five minutes that got the Celtics within three.
“I could feel the energy in the building from beginning to end,” said Jayson Tatum, who finished with a game-high 34 points. “It was a totally different experience compared to not having them, even though it’s limited. That was something good to take away from tonight. The fans were incredible. It felt like it was a full house tonight with their energy.”
That energy did include some booing as well. The loss dropped the Celtics back below .500 and was their seventh defeat in its last 11 games. Trade acquisition Evan Fournier (19.7 points per game with the Orlando Magic) played 33 minutes in his Celtics debut and finished with no points on 0-of-10 shooting.
“I have no doubt Evan Fournier is going to score a lot of buckets for the Celtics,” coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “So very much a blip. Not worried about it.”
Boston played without All-Star swingman Jaylen Brown (hip).
While the Celtics fell flat Monday, the Mavericks were victorious in a rout, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 127-106. Luka Doncic scored 25 points in his return from two games missed with a back injury and a non-COVID-related illness, and Dallas snapped a two-game skid.
“Overall, our performance as a team was decent, but we know there are a lot of things that we could have done better tonight,” said Kristaps Porzingis, who had 20 points and nine rebounds after missing Dallas’ previous contest to rest his right knee. “We’re going to focus on that and try to grow from this game.”
The Mavericks are 5-5 in their last 10 games. Dallas was without center Willie Cauley-Stein for a sixth straight game Monday due to health and safety protocols. Trade acquisition Nicolo Melli had six points in 11 minutes off the bench in his Dallas debut.
“It felt good,” Melli said. “I’m happy to be on this team. I like the group. I was glad to have the opportunity to play.”
Wednesday’s meeting will be the second and last between the Celtics and Mavericks this regular season. Dallas won 110-107 at home on Feb. 23, Doncic hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left on the clock in regulation.
The contest will be the third for the Mavericks in a five-game road trip.
–Field Level Media