The Dallas Mavericks  are a strange team. That’s meant as a compliment. They have a number of smaller players who can create havoc both offensively and defensively. They also have a 7-foot jump shooter in Dirk Nowitzki who might be the MVP of the league. The Celtics  usually make teams play the way they want to play, but they were never able to impose their game on the Mavs.
The result was a wildly entertaining, and slightly weird, game in which both teams shot close to 50 percent and got more offensive rebounds than they typically do in a week. It featured Ray Allen  raining 3’s, and also blocking a 7-footer at the rim. Nowitzki made one shot in the first quarter, and still finished with 29 points.
It came down to the final few possessions when everything once again went haywire. Rajon Rondo  missed a jumper, Allen forced a shot and after getting a steal on the defensive end, Kevin Garnett  had a 20-footer rim in and out. That gave the Mavericks life and Jason Kidd  answered with an open 3 off a wild scrum from the top of the key. The Celtics had a chance to tie the game, but a Rondo lob to Garnett with 2.5 seconds left sailed a few inches too high.
Ultimately, it goes in the books as a 101-97 loss and a tough way for the Celtics to start their stretch of games against the best teams in the league, a group that definitely includes the Mavericks.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bad start: The Celtics gave up 34 points in the first quarter (a season-high) and allowed the Mavs to shoot 67 percent from the floor. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also allowed the Mavericks to make 5-of-6 from behind the arc. It was as bad a defensive performance as the Celtics have had all season and left the fighting to get out of the hole all night long.
Cross matchups: Dallas started an unconventional lineup with J.J. Barea, Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson . That led to all kind of cross matchups with Allen guarding Kidd. When coach Rick Carlisle  went to Jason Terry  and Shawn Marion  in his rotation that only led to more strange scenarios such as Kendrick Perkins  guarding Marion. The Celtics were never really able to get into a defensive rhythm.
Kevin Garnett may get fined: Another game, another KG incident. His latest misadventure came when he got tangled up with Barea on a layup. Garnett threw an elbow and was given a technical. As they were getting untangled, referee Eric Lewis put his hand on Garnett’s arm and Garnett shoved it aside. That move will likely cost him some money.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen just keeps rolling: Allen got off to a slow start, but the thing with him is you never know when he’s going to go off. On Friday it was the third quarter when he drained 5-of-6 shots and scored 14 of his 24 points. If that wasn’t enough, Allen went over Nowitzki for a tip-in and straight blocked Tyson Chandler  who was going up for a dunk.
Better bench play: Doc Rivers  yanked his starters after a terrible defensive first quarter and it was the second unit that got them back in the game. Their production — 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists — was solid, but it was their defensive energy that ultimately was more important. Marquis Daniels  was the ringleader with 10 points.
The Beast is back (Part V): Just in case there was any doubt, Kendrick Perkins is back, and maybe better than ever. Perkins re-joined the starting lineup with Shaquille O’Neal  out with an Achilles injury and responded with his first double-double. Perkins had 13 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes and finished what he started. It may have happened sooner than Rivers anticipated, but there’s nothing holding Perkins back now.