Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 104, Celtics 94

How it happened: The Dallas Mavericks played drastically better defense than in their previous two games and got the ball in the hands of their hot frontcourt duo.

After allowing 113 points in each of the past two games, the Mavs held the Celtics to 41.6 percent shooting. With the way that Dirk Nowitzki and Brandan Wright were working on the offensive end, the Mavs managed to beat a playoff-caliber Boston team.

Nowitzki, whose low shot totals in recent games had been an alarming trend, scored 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Wright, a surprise starter at center, scored a season-high 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting.

The different styles of Nowitzki and Wright complemented each other well. Nowitzki, as has been the case for years, did most of his damage with midrange jumpers. The majority of Wright’s buckets came around -– and over -– the rim.

Shawn Marion made his presence felt in his return after missing eight games due to a strained left calf. He posted a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

O.J. Mayo added 10 points and nine assists, hitting a dagger 3 with 1:21 remaining.

Jason Terry, Nowitzki’s scoring sidekick for eight seasons before signing with the Celtics last summer, was a nonfactor in his return to the American Airlines Center. Terry, who received a standing ovation when he checked into the game in the first quarter, scored only eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.

What it means: The Mavs avoided losing consecutive games for the first time this month. Dallas (33-36) is 8-4 in March, keeping its slim playoff hopes alive. The Mavs are 2½ games out of eighth place in the West standings after the Los Angeles Lakers’ late loss to the Washington Wizards. The Celtics (36-32) fell to seventh in the East, a half-game behind the Chicago Bulls.

Play of the game: Vince Carter threw down an electrifying tomahawk dunk off a backdoor cut in the third quarter. After Carter cut and caught a bounce pass from Chris Kaman, he vaulted off two feet, cocked the ball back and threw it down to give the Mavs a 10-point lead.

Stat of the night: The Mavs never trailed in a game for just the second time this season. The other was a Jan. 14 home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.