Celtics, Mavs clash in Big D

Two teams striving to make the postseason clash Friday night in Big D, where the Dallas Mavericks will entertain the Boston Celtics.

The Mavericks haven't done themselves any favors by alternating wins and losses over the past six and are 3 1/2 games off the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Dallas opened a season-long, six-game homestand with Wednesday's 113-96 loss to the Brooklyn Nets and was led by Dirk Nowitzki's 16 points. Chris Kaman had 14 points for the Mavericks, who are 18-14 as the host and were outrebounded by the Nets, 45-34. Defense was an issue for a Mavs team that has shot 50 percent or better seven times in the last 11 games.

The Mavericks are 16-3 this season when they shoot 50-plus percent from the field.

"Our defense wasn't good enough," said Nowitzki, who notched his 9,000th career rebound and is averaging 18.1 ppg since the All-Star break.

The Mavs did have a 32-22 lead after the first quarter, then were outscored in each of the final three periods.

Dallas is also slated to host the Jazz, Clippers, Pacers and Bulls.

Boston is two games ahead of Milwaukee in the seventh spot in the East, but can still improve its position in the postseason hunt.

The Celtics opened a three-game road trip with a heartbreaking 87-86 loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night and were burned by Anthony Davis' putback with 0.3 seconds remaining.

Kevin Garnett was back at work following a two-game absence because of a thigh injury and managed to post 20 points. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 28 points for the Celtics, who were coming off a close loss to the Miami Heat and have dropped four of the previous six games.

"We have to come out with better focus than we had tonight," said Pierce. "We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had tonight and that's not acceptable."

Jeff Green, who racked up a career-best 43 points in Boston's 105-103 loss to the Heat on Monday, finished with 13 in the Big Easy.

Boston is 12-21 on the road and will conclude the jaunt Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Celtics needed double overtime to get past the Mavericks, 117-115, back on Dec. 12 in Beantown. Pierce scored 34 points and O.J. Mayo ended with 24 points for Dallas, which had won four straight and five of six meetings in this series.

The Celtics have lost nine of 12 and 13 of its last 17 trips to Big D.