BOSTON — The Dallas Mavericks continue to establish themselves as solid playoff contenders in the Western Conference.
Forward Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs cruised to their fifth straight victory, a 102-91 decision over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Dallas (31-21) moved into a virtual sixth-place tie with the idle Phoenix Suns, a half-game ahead of the also-idle Golden State Warriors.
Nowitzki, on a tear the past seven games, scored 20 points and added five rebounds and four assists. The Mavs went on a 20-5 run bridging the halves to open a three-game road trip with the easy win.
The Celtics, whose 2-15 January was the worst month in franchise history, didn’t get hot until it was too late. They lost for the first time in four February games.
Boston (18-34) used a 13-2 run to get as close as nine points late in the game.
Guard Jose Calderon had 18 points, five rebounds and five assists for Dallas. Swingman Vince Carter came off the bench to score 14 points. Forward Shawn Marion had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and center Samuel Dalmbert grabbed 11 boards as the Mavs led by as many as 24 in the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks had six players score in double figures, and they hit 10 of their first 20 3-pointers. They finished 10-for-23 from long range.
Celtics forward Jared Sullinger shot just 4-for-13 from the floor but recorded his fifth straight double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Point guard Rajon Rondo had 15 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, and forward Jeff Green scored a team-high 18 points.
Boston guard Chris Johnson scored a career-high 14 points, all in the final 9:02. Celtics center Kris Humphries added 10 points.
The teams stumbled through a low-scoring first quarter, the Mavs emerging ahead 17-16, and Dallas was up by six at the half.
The visitors scored the last four points of the first half and then went on a 16-5 run to start the second. Calderon started the half with a 3-pointer, and the Mavericks broke it open from there.
The lead was 17 and the local fans started to boo as Boston’s cold shooting continued. The Celtics finally got over 30 percent from the floor late in the quarter and got the deficit down to 12 in the final minute. However, the margin was up to 16 and the Celtics’ shooting was down to 29.9 percent by the end of the quarter.
Boston finished at 35.9 percent.
NOTES: Dallas G Monta Ellis was a game-time decision because of a hamstring injury but was able to play. He scored 11 points. … The New York Daily News reported the Atlanta Hawks are aggressively trying to acquire Celtics F Jeff Green. … ESPN Boston reported the contract G Chris Johnson signed with the Celtics on Friday is actually for four years, including this one — but the next three years aren’t guaranteed. … G Rajon Rondo, who returned after missing a game with general soreness, became the sixth Celtic to record 4,000 career assists. He will sit against the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday night, the second half of a back-to-back, as he continues his return from knee surgery. … The Mavericks play the Bobcats in Charlotte on Tuesday. … Most of the Celtics’ front office personnel were at Boston College on Saturday night to watch Duke freshman F Jabari Parker. They were joined by dozens of other NBA scouts. … Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was at Sunday night’s game, sitting behind his team’s bench.
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