DALLAS — Not even on St. Patrick’s Day? Not even on such a holiday could a green-clad team that wears shamrocks, that’s named the Celtics, find some luck?
Not this season.
Monday night’s result at the American Airlines Center was typical for the Celtics, a carbon copy of so many that preceded it elsewhere.
Despite another valiant effort, one that most winning teams don’t even produce on a nightly basis, the Celtics added another loss to the ledger, this time courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks, who held on to issue their guests a 94-89 defeat.
It was the fifth straight loss for the Celtics (22-46), and it was their third straight loss while wearing their festive sleeved uniforms.
But more importantly, at least as far as history is concerned, the Celtics finished their season winless on the road vs. the Western Conference (0-15) for the first time in franchise history.
“The West is clearly better than the East,” coach Brad Stevens said before the game. “I don’t think anybody would argue that.”
But afterward, Stevens was more resolute about how hard his team played considering it was without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who sat out the second game of a back-to-back to rest his surgically repaired right knee, and considering it had just fallen in overtime in New Orleans the night before.
“I feel like a broken record, to be honest, talking about silver linings, but I guess that would be one silver lining,” he said.
The Mavericks (41-27) led by 15 with 4:19 left in the third quarter, but the Celtics cut that lead to 1 after Avery Bradley turned a steal into a fast-break dunk with 21.6 seconds left.
After a pair of Monta Ellis free throws stretched the Mavericks’ lead to 92-89, Jerryd Bayless drove, missed a floater, eventually gathered the rebound, shot again, and was blocked by Vince Carter.
The Mavericks recovered the ball, made more free throws, and sealed their win.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said Ellis, who scored 17.
And so it was, as is often the case with these Celtics.
“They have been playing like that the whole season,” Ellis said. “They always play the whole 48 minutes, so we knew they were going to come back and make a run.”
The Celtics didn’t shoot well (36.6 percent), but they were strong on the boards, outrebounding Dallas, 57-36. Kris Humphries had a game-high 14 rebounds.
“They had 21 offensive rebounds, which is an astronomical number,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “It’s too many, obviously. They charge after it pretty aggressively and we didn’t do a good job there, but we survived it.”
And again, the Celtics had nothing to show for a fine effort.
“It’s frustrating,” said Bayless, who scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. “We’ve got to continue to fight through it.’’
He added, “We’re not giving up. Obviously the season hasn’t gone as expected, but we’re not going to give up. And everybody is going to continue to compete every night.”
Bradley got the start in Rondo’s spot and struggled, finishing 5 for 14 with 11 points.
Kelly Olynyk added 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
And after tying his season high with 39 points Sunday at New Orleans, Jeff Green was predictably absent, finishing with 5 points on 2-for-12 shooting.
“I had a little stomach issue in the first half,” Green said. “The medicine kicked in in the second half, but by that time, I didn’t have no rhythm. I’ve just got to keep going, keep attacking, keep shooting. Just have confidence in my shot. “
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 19 points.
As Stevens searched for silver linings once again, he was asked about how he can manage his expectations knowing his team isn’t built to win, at the moment.
“The one thing, when you’re in coaching, you look at expectations, but you think in terms of perfection with what people are capable of, knowing that it’s not obtainable,” the rookie coach said.
“Every open shot looks good or feels good, or if you work right to get it, that’s all you can do. Then defensively, if you make one mistake, that’s one mistake you could have corrected. That’s the one part in coaching, the expectations will never equal what a coach is looking for.
“I’m frustrated obviously by our lack of success, I am not frustrated by our effort.”
Effort was all the Celtics had left on a cool night in Texas, where they fell on the wrong side of history. They found no luck on a day fit for just that, for a team that seemed most deserving. All they received, instead, was another loss in the ledger, as their season inches toward its end.