DALLAS — NBA games are rarely, if ever, decided in the first quarter.
If the Dallas Mavericks needed a reminder, they got one Monday night.
Behind a season-high 31 points from power forward Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks blew a big lead before edging the Boston Celtics 118-113 in overtime at American Airlines Center.
“We had to grind this one out,” said Nowitzki, who scored 21 points after the third quarter to match his best offensive output this season.
“They’re a deep team, they’re a tough team, they’re talented and they made it hard on us all night. They kept coming even though we started off hot.”
The Mavericks (24-19) responded to their worst loss of the season Sunday at San Antonio by extending their winning streak against Boston to seven. Dallas has won 11 of the past 12 in the series.
The victory also concluded a challenging five-game stretch that saw the Mavericks go 2-3.
“It’s a great win for us,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “It salvages our week to some degree because it was such a hard week schedule-wise.”
Boston, down as many as 17 points, were up as many as six points in the fourth quarter.
Despite having a shot to win, the Celtics (22-20) had their three-game winning streak snapped.
“We just chipped away,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “I don’t think it was anything that happened quickly by any means, but I thought the guys really competed after eight minutes or so at a high, high level, and we just got off to a bad start. And we were
playing uphill but had our chances anyways but weren’t able to take advantage of it.”
The Mavs were in position to put it away in regulation. Nowitzki’s four-point play with 1:27 to go — he was fouled by reserve center Kelly Olynyk while nailing a 3-pointer — left Dallas up 94-89.
The Mavs were still leading 98-95 before Boston small forward Jae Crowder was hit on the arm by Dallas guard Raymond Felton with 6.7 seconds remaining while attempting a 3-point shot. Crowder (12 points) hit all three free throws to force overtime.
Dallas found its 3-point stroke in the extra session, hitting four from deep to pull away. Small forward Chandler Parsons started the barrage with a 3-pointer before point guard Deron Williams sank two.
Nowitzki hit the dagger from the corner with 35.4 seconds left for a 112-105 lead.
“It was big,” Carlisle said. “Deron Williams was huge tonight really throughout the game, but none bigger in overtime. Dirk hit a huge 3 from the left corner.”
Nowitzki missed nine of 12 shots from the floor through three quarters, but he was 6-for-9 thereafter. He made 12 of 13 free throws overall and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Williams finished with 20 points and six assists. Parsons scored 16, shooting guard Wesley Matthews scored 15, and Felton had 14 points off the bench.
Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (20 points) led the second-half charge, but the Boston bench came up big as well.
Reserve shooting guard Marcus Smart, a native of Dallas suburb Flower Mound, had 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Guard Avery Bradley scored 19 points, and Olynyk knocked down five 3-pointers en route to 17 points.
The Mavericks threatened to run away with the game in the first quarter, racing out to a 17-2 lead behind Matthews, who scored 11 in the period.
Boston missed 15 of its first 16 shots, forcing Stevens to turn to his backups. The reserves came through, with Smart helping the Celtics close the gap.
The Celtics carried that momentum into the second half and took their first lead. A 15-3 run early in the third quarter set the stage, and Boston went into the fourth up 72-70.
“It’s real tough when you’re down 15 to start,” Olynyk said. “Giving someone a 15-point cushion in this league, it’s not easy to come back from that. We had a good run and made it close, then we made a few mistakes in the end there that we could have shored up. We had the opportunity.”
The Mavericks are back home Wednesday to play the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Boston plays the Raptors in Toronto the same night.