Dirk Nowitzki  scored 22 points and Brandan Wright  added a team-high 23 – 16 above his season average – as the Dallas Mavericks  handed the Celtics  their third straight loss, 104-94, Friday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Celtics have lost five of seven and three straight for the first time since losing six in a row between Jan. 16-25.
Kevin Garnett , Paul Pierce  and Brandon Bass  each scored 16 for the Celtics, who fell to 36-31 on the season. Adding to Boston’s misery was a left ankle injury to Courtney Lee , who rolled the ankle late in the fourth quarter. He had to be helped off the court and to the locker room and did not play in the final minute.
In his return to Dallas for the first time since signing with the Celtics as a free agent last summer, Jason Terry  was held to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting. The appreciative Dallas crowd gave Terry a standing ovation when he checked into the game for the first time with 3:57 left in the first quarter. His former Mavericks teammates also applauded his returned on the Dallas bench.
The only Celtics player in double figures in the first half was Brandon Bass with 10 points. Boston had no answers for Vince Carter  off the Dallas bench. Carter had 12 points in 12 minutes, a big reason the Mavericks were able to take a 55-44 halftime lead.
The Mavericks built their lead to as much as 14 twice in the second quarter.
Jordan Crawford hit a baseline three early in the third quarter and followed that up with a steal and reverse layup with 10:19 left in the fourth to cut Dallas’ lead down to six, 81-75. Crawford hit another tough shot – a baseline fadeaway – to keep the Celtics within six, 83-77, with just over nine minutes left.
But the Celtics couldn’t keep the Mavericks from responding and building the lead back to 11, 94-83, with three minutes left. Pierce hit a straightaway three with 2:59 left to cut the Dallas lead down to eight, 94-86. Green’s layup with 1:51 brought the Celtics within five, 97-92. The Celtics forced a missed shot by Carter but Knight got the rebound and kicked it to Carter, who then found O.J. Mayo, who knocked down the three to push the lead back to eight, 100-92, with 1:21 left.
Mayo then stole a pass on the next Celtics possession as the Celtics lost their third straight.
The road gets no easier on Saturday night, as the Celtics travel to Memphis to battle the Grizzlies . The Celtics return home for a Atlantic Division showdown with the Knicks on Tuesday night at the Garden.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics .