Celtics look for answers heading into matchup at Dallas

The Boston Celtics, losers of nine of their past 14 games and sitting at .500, will look to get back on track when they visit the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

Boston’s latest misstep came in epic fashion, with a squandered 24-point lead in the second half of a 120-115 overtime setback to the host New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

“It hurt. That one stung,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “(Monday’s practice) was about being able to put that behind us and learn from it, learn from what we need to do better in that moment, and I think we will do better in that moment.”

Kemba Walker followed a season-best, 28-point performance in Boston’s 121-109 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday with a disastrous shooting display two days later. He went 5 of 21 from the floor, including 1 of 12 from 3-point range.

“When times get tough, I’m not the type to put my head down and be frustrated over it,” Walker said Monday. “Just got to continue to work hard and my time will come.”

Walker hopes to rebound on Tuesday when he joins Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the court. Walker scored 32 points and combined with Brown and Tatum to record 82 in Boston’s 109-103 victory at Dallas in the teams’ last meeting on Dec. 18, 2019.

Tatum averages a team-best 26 points per game, with Brown just a fraction lower at 25.5.

There’s a significant dip in production from there, and that takes into consideration Walker’s efforts to work his way past the lingering effects of offseason knee surgery.

While Boston was unable to hold a sizable lead in its last game, Dallas had no such issues on Monday. The Mavericks, who were playing for the first time since Valentine’s Day, scored 20 of the first 25 points of the contest and led wire-to-wire in a 102-92 victory over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

Tim Hardaway Jr. drained 7 of 11 3-point attempts to highlight his 29-point performance off the bench. Hardaway made 9 of 14 shots from the floor, a significant improvement after sinking a total of 7 of 20 attempts in his previous two contests combined.

“When I see one or two go in, it’s pretty much an ocean for me. The game just comes naturally,” Hardaway said. “I just really pride myself in being one of our top shooters, and when I check in the game, I just want to be that sparkplug for the team any way, shape or form I can and make sure I bring that attitude.”

Luka Doncic collected 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Dallas captured its fifth win in six games.

Doncic scored 34 points in the Mavericks’ 116-106 setback at Boston on Nov. 11, 2019. Kristaps Porzingis led Dallas with 23 points and 13 rebounds in the rematch a month later.

Porzingis, however, sat out Monday’s game due to lower back stiffness. It was not known if he would be on the court Tuesday against Boston.

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