Jason Terry's quiet fourth quarter was just about complete when Dallas center Brandan Wright waited near the basket for a lob pass from Shawn Marion.
Wright's forceful slam on the alley-oop capped his season-high 23-point game, Dirk Nowitzki pitched in 22 and the Mavericks spoiled Terry's return to Dallas with a 104-94 victory against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
"It's his kind of game because there are a lot of small guys out there," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of Wright. "That's the reason we started him. He navigates well in an athletic game without a lot of bruisers in it."
Terry scored eight in his first game in Dallas since leaving for Boston in free agency. He was the latest key piece the Mavericks decided not to keep since beating Miami in the 2011 NBA finals.
Terry was known for 3-point shooting and clutch fourth quarters with the Mavericks, but he missed both 3-pointers for the game and was just 1 of 3 shooting without a try from long range in the final quarter.
He got a rousing ovation when he entered the game late in the first quarter, but it was brief because the game wasn't stopped. Vince Carter almost immediately hit a 3-pointer to force the fans to cheer for the Mavericks again.
"It was nothing out of the ordinary. It was a good feeling," Terry said. "But again, I was solely locked in on the game. It was good to see everyone. But I'm a Celtic now."
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass led Boston with 16 points apiece. Garnett added 12 rebounds, and Bass grabbed 11.
The Mavericks kept their lead near the halftime margin of 11 until early in the fourth quarter, when Jordan Crawford hit a tough 3-pointer from the corner, then picked up a steal from Mike James near midcourt and made a reverse layup with Nowitzki in pursuit to pull Boston within six.
The Celtics had a chance to get within six again when Wright stripped Jeff Green on a drive, leading to a short jumper from Darren Collison for an 87-77 Dallas lead with 7:44 remaining.
"He was coming full speed and I knew that he wanted to get to the rim," Wright said. "He's one of the best attackers in the league. He exposed the ball and I just grabbed it and threw it back in. That was a big turnaround for us."
The Celtics were within five in the final 2 minutes when Wright rebounded a miss from Carter, and O.J. Mayo had all the time he needed to measure up a 3-pointer for a 100-92 lead while a Courtney Lee sat near him holding his sprained left ankle. Lee said after the game the injury wasn't serious.
One of Terry's misses in the fourth was a pull-up jumper that could have made it a six-point game.
"He didn't play great tonight," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "He played with a lot of spirit. I love him, still. I wish we could have won the game for him tonight. I really do."
The Celtics were within six earlier in the fourth when Mayo hit a tough jumper with the shot clock expiring and Wright followed a miss with a dunk to push the lead to 10 again.
"Defensively right now, we're not getting it done," Terry said. "Give them credit, they spread us out. They used (Wright) to roll to the basket tonight and he played well."
Marion, back after missing eight games with a left calf strain, had 11 points and 13 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season.
Dallas went 5-3 without him but missed his defense, particularly in giving up 113 points in each of the last two games he was out. The Mavericks held the Celtics to 42 percent shooting and limited Pierce and Kevin Garnett to just 19 shots combined. They had 10 more rebounds than Boston after giving up 22 boards to Reggie Evans and getting outrebounded by 11 in a loss to Brooklyn.
Marion had a rough start — his first shot was an airball on a wide-open 3-pointer — but he had seven rebounds in the first quarter and 10 before halftime.
"It was frustrating sitting on the sideline wishing I could be back out there," Marion said. "My timing is off a little, but it's OK."
The Celtics lost for the fifth time in seven games and slid closer to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, which would mean a likely first-round pairing with Miami. The Celtics have lost three straight, a skid that started with a loss to Miami when Boston let a 17-point lead slip away with a chance to end the Heat's winning streak at 22.
NOTES: Carlisle said G Rodrigue Beaubois was "probably" out for the season after surgery on a broken left hand, but wouldn't rule him out entirely. Beaubois was injured in Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City. ... Mayo is still Dallas' leading scorer, but he's been the top point man just twice in the past 20 games. He's been held to single digits three times this month. ... Green has 23 points combined in the two games since he scored a career-high 43 in Boston's loss to Miami. ... The Mavericks didn't trail in a game for the second time this season. The previous game was Jan. 14, a 113-98 win over Minnesota. ... Carlisle said the Mavericks were not going to sign G Chris Wright to a second 10-day contract.