for this game

Allen's 3-pointer helps Celtics top Mavs

Mar 21, 2008 - 5:03 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- The West might have the deepest conference, but the Boston Celtics have the best record for a reason.

Ray Allen scored 21 points, including the go-head jumper with 31 seconds left as the Celtics completed a rare three-game sweep in Texas with Thursday's 94-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Boston leaves the state of Texas with impressive wins over Houston, San Antonio and Dallas which are a combined 134-70 on the season.

"This was probably one of the better ones of the three (games in Texas)," said Pierce, who had three blocks.

The Celtics (55-13) became the first team to sweep the "Texas Triangle" since the Sacramento Kings accomplished the feat in November of 2001.

Paul Pierce had 22 points and 13 rebounds and fellow All-Star Kevin Garnett chipped in 20 and 13 as the Celtics improved to 14-1 in their last 15 outings.

"Through all that we still won the game because we got stops," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "And I told them if you defend and don't turn the ball over you can make decisions like that and still win the game, and that's what we did. This was just a great win for us."

Two free throws by Dirk Nowitzki put the Mavericks up 88-87 at 1:54 mark in the fourth quarter. After both teams came away empty on consecutive possessions, Sam Cassell found Allen for the game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing.

"We grinded it out, it was a three, four-point game pretty much the whole way and then (we) found ways to knock down shots," Pierce said. "Ray made an unbelievable shot on a play we drew up and we just kept getting stops and that was the key."

"Through turnovers, missing shots, and things like that, but we've been able to get defensive stops which help us get us back in a game, whether it's just one stop or two stops that are needed and put ourselves in that situation for Ray to make those shots or for guys just to make plays in general," Celtics forward James Posey said. "We just have guys that are capable of doing it."

It was Allen's first game back after missing the pervious three contests due to jammed left ankle injury suffered in the first quarter in a home loss to Utah on March 14.

"I have no problem whatsoever," Allen said. "I feel great."

Nowitzki had an opportunity tie the game, but misfired on a tough layup in the traffic 10 seconds later. Posey and Garnett each hit a pair of foul shots to seal the victory.

Josh Howard scored 24 points and Nowitzki finished with 22 and 19 boards for Dallas, which is just one game ahead of Golden State for seventh place in the Western Conference standings.

"I love our effort," Nowitzki said. "We played the best team in basketball and there are no prizes for second place and if you look at our effort consistently throughout the game, the effort was there, the energy was there. Guys were focused, they battled. Some things didn't go our way but we hung in there and dug down in there."

"I think this season. We've been up and down," Howard said. "Not really consistent. I think it's just a matter of time for us getting consistent. We haven't found that rhythm all the way yet. We have to continue to trust one another and play hard."

The Mavericks fell to 10-6 since acquiring Jason Kidd from New Jersey.

"We didn't know what to expect," Mavs swingman Jerry Stackhouse said. "Nobody expects a trade at the deadline. (Heck), if we had our druthers, we would have rather had the trade in December or January. We've got a month and a half to still try to get everything together. Because somebody feels that 'alright it's been two weeks of playing together and we should be at the top of our game. It doesn't always work out that way.

"I'm not saying that we haven't grown in the past but I don't think that there's a destination so to speak. We still want to continue to grow once the playoffs start. We want to get better and better. We don't want to peak too soon. I thought we did that last year so we just have to keep battling and we'll see."