The names were familiar, but the games were hardly recognizable. Both the Celtics  and Mavericks came into Wednesday’s game at TD Garden with .500 records and they played like it. There were missed shots, botched dunks and careless turnovers.
Paul Pierce  was 2-for-5. Vince Carter  was 1-for-8 and Kevin Garnett  missed seven of his 11 shots. There was a glimmer of old-time glory late in the game with Pierce drained a 3-pointer to tie the game and Dirk Nowitzki  answered on the other end with an amazing take to the basket that went past Garnett and through Brandon Bass . That was the difference in a 90-85 Mavericks’ victory.
Before the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers  said this is on the starters, but with the exception of Rajon Rondo  it was another lackluster effort. The Big 3 was 5-for-16 for just 19 points through the first three quarters and the Celtics scored just 15 points in the first quarter and 17 in the third.
The Celtics showed a lot of energy coming back, but they had no legs down the stretch as epitomized on one play when Jason Terry  drove through the lane and no one even moved to stop him.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— The Celtics scored just 15 points in the first quarter, continuing a terrible trend of slow starts. They made just 5-of-18 shots and looked passive on offense and lifeless on defense. They did the same thing in the third quarter, scoring just 17 points and allowing the Mavs to open up a 13-point lead at one point.
— Pierce followed up his 3-for-17 performance against Indiana with a 2-for-5 effort that was even less inspiring than it sounds. After missing his only shot in six minutes of the third quarter, Pierce sat until the 6-minute mark of the fourth quarter. He made one huge shot with 25 seconds left that tied the game, but doesn’t excuse another bad performance.
— The Mavs had 17 second-chance points. The Celtics had none.
— The Celtics picked up two fourth quarter technical fouls — one on Rondo while he was on the bench and another on Rivers. They have a no fourth quarter tech policy and it cost them.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— Rondo was phenomenal for most of the game, taking on the scoring responsibilities and playing the kind of reckless floor game that was demanded. Rondo took 16 shots and got to the free throw line 12 times, making eight and finishing with 24 points. All that and he still had seven assists. The only quibble with his game were fast-break turnovers.
— Keyon Dooling  and Brandon Bass provided a huge lift with their energy and it certainly didn’t hurt when they started making shots in the second half. Dooling scored nine points on 4-for-5 shooting in just 13 minutes and Bass was all over the floor, both offensively and defensively.
— Avery Bradley  had one awful turnover and a bricked 3-pointer that may have been the worst wide-open look in NBA history, but his defense was once again strong and he helped turn the momentum in the second quarter. The Celtics don’t need points from Bradley. They need that fullcourt pressure defense and that’s what he gave them.
— Mickael Pietrus  had a solid debut, playing the kind of strong defense the Celtics expect and knocking down his first 3-pointer. Marquis Daniels  was available, but he has already lost his minutes to Pietrus, who played deep into the fourth quarter.