BOSTON (AP) — With Dallas closing the gap, Jayson Tatum turned the matchup with Luka Doncic into a game of one-on-one.
And the Boston star bested the Mavericks’ each time.
Tatum had 37 points and 13 rebounds and Jaylen Brown scored 31 on Wednesday night to help the NBA-best Celtics respond after a rare loss and beat Dallas 125-112.
“His ability to answer the moment. His ability to make everyone around him better,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “You can count on him to play every night.”
Doncic, the NBA’s leading scorer, had 42 points for the Mavericks. Tatum, the No. 4 scorer in the league, had been listed as questionable with a sprained ankle.
“He was going to play. He knew who he was matched up with,” Brown said. “Don’t let him fool you. He knew he was going to play the whole time.”
Boston led by as many as 27 points in the third quarter before Dallas scored 13 of the next 15 points. The Mavericks got within nine, 104-95 with about 3:30 remaining, and it was 117-107 when the two stars squared off.
Tatum drove for a two-handed, rim-hanging slam, then Doncic was called for an offensive foul. Doncic fouled Tatum, who hit two free throws to give Boston a 121-107 lead, then Tatum blocked Doncic’s layup attempt.
“I told him I didn’t want you to dunk it,” Tatum said. “He looked at me like, ‘You thought I was going to dunk it?’”
Brown hit a 3-pointer to make it 124-107 and ice it.
“Luka kind of got it going a little bit, and then the team got it going a little bit,” Brown said. “It’s just weathering the storm.”
The Celtics, who have a league-leading 14 wins, had won nine straight before losing to the Bulls on Monday.
“Chicago was just one game,” Brown said. “There’s going to be times where you’re going to not make shots and it’s going to put pressure on our defense. More times than not, this team’s going to play the right way.”
The Mavericks had beaten Boston four straight times. Three of the wins came on a 3-pointer in the final seconds, and two of those were with no time at all on the clock.
“Dallas has gotten the best of us the last few years,” Tatum said, admitting that Brown was “probably right” about the chances of him sitting out. “I’m always going to try to lace them up. Sitting out is never really an option.”
But Doncic wasn’t able to keep this one close.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who was listed is questionable with a dislocated shoulder, had 15 points for Dallas.
Boston led 17-14 six…