They weren’t kidding about this all-hands-on-deck stuff.
As Gordon Hayward rested up following surgery to repair a broken left hand Monday night, his teammates began his approximate six-week absence with a visit to their local walk-in freezer.
The fact they emerged with a 116-106 win, handing 6-4 Dallas its first road loss of the season, and winning their eighth straight game for an NBA-leading 8-1 record, was a testament to cast effort.
With Jayson Tatum uncorking his worst shooting night of the season (five points, 1-for-18), the Celtics pulled this one out from across the board, from high scorers Kemba Walker (29 points, 8-for-14 from 3-point range) and Jaylen Brown (25 points, 11 rebounds), to crucial fill-in-the-gap performances from Brad Wanamaker (10 points, four assists) and Daniel Theis (11 points, five rebounds).
And then there was Marcus Smart, once again shooting with impunity from downtown, where he scored 12 of his 17 points, and leading a group effort on Dallas’ star, Luka Doncic, who shot 11-for-21 for his game-high 34 points.
Starting with a 7-0 run that gave Dallas its first lead of the night at 88-86 on a Tim Hardaway Jr. floater, the Mavericks took the lead three times in a one-minute span, with the Celtics eventually falling a point shy (92-91) when Walker missed the first of two free throws.
But the Celtics point guard came back with a 3-pointer for a 94-92 lead with 5:21 left. This time Doncic went 1-for-2 from the line, leaving the Mavs a point short.
Doncic then leveled Daniel Theis with what was scored a Flagrant 1 foul, with the Celtics center missing the first of two. But on the ensuing possession Walker lost Maxi Kleber with a crossover and hit step-back 3-pointer for a 98-92 lead.
Jalen Brunson hit one of two from the line, and Walker again made the Mavs pay, this time with a right side 3-pointer for a 100-93 Celtics lead with 4:11 left.
Dallas came up empty on two straight possessions, and Marcus Smart drove, drew the foul, and converted the three-point play for a 103-93 lead.
Maxi Kleber missed the first of two from the line, and Smart boosted the lead ti 106-94, this time with his third trey of the night.
Doncic’s 14-point third quarter kept the Mavericks close despite a 14-3 Celtics run, with the C’s taking a thin 84-79 lead into the fourth quarter.
Tatum, uncommonly cold, dropped to 1-for-15 with a miss to open the fourth, though thanks to a Javonte Green slash, the Celtics briefly pulled out to an 86-81 lead, before Tim Hardaway Jr. cut the Celtics lead to 86-84 from downtown.
Porzingis left the floor with his fifth foul after elbowing Smart in the face, and Tatum added two more misses to what was now a 1-for-17 night.
Dwight Powell made his old team pay, too, with a dunk that tied the game at 86-86 with 7:51 left.
The Celtics edged their way out of a contentious first half in a 54-54 tie, thanks to a 14-4 Dallas run over the last 2:55 of the second quarter.
Dorian Finney-Smith’s trey at the start of the third was negated after a video review revealed that it was after the shot clock. The Celtics then threw their biggest punch to that point with a 15-3 run that included seven points from Brown, including an alley-oop transition dunk off a Tatum feed for a 69-57 lead.
Doncic, naturally, pulled the Mavericks out of this hole, scoring Dallas’ next seven points.
And when the Celtics pushed back out to a 76-66 lead, the Mavs star scored the next five points to trim the C’s edge to five points with 2:48 left in the quarter.
Walker and Maxi Kleber got into a swap meet, each with two 3-pointers, before Walker broke the run with a pair of free throws for an 84-77 lead. But Robert Williams leaped halfway across the floor to goaltend a Doncic drive, leaving the Celtics with an 84-79 lead.