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Celtics Face Test as Mavs Come to Town

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Dallas Mavericks (31-13) at Boston Celtics (35-8)
Thursday, January 31
8:00 PM ET
Game #44,  Home Game #24
TV:  TNT, SCORE, KTXA
Sirius:  123
TD Banknorth Garden 
 
Chat Game Thread     

Mavericks Coverage:    Showboating      l  Mav's Moneyball      

The knock on the Celtics has been that they haven't faced any of the Western powers including the Mavs, Spurs, Hornets or Suns.  This is their first chance at the Mavs and it doesn't look like they will be at full strength.   The Celtics blew out the Heat without KG or Ray Allen, but the Mavs are a different story.  Without KG to defend Dirk it is going to be a tough game for the Celtics.  However, if they can play defense like they did against the Heat and if the Bench can come through again, they can be competitive even without KG.   
 
The Mavericks have been playing very good basketball and come into this game on a 4 game win streak. If the Celtics want to get the asterisk removed from their record, they need to win the games against the league's top teams.  The Mavs have won 7 in a row against the Celtics and last lost in Boston on 12/17/03.   Even if the Celtics get a lead on the Mavs, they can't let up as the Mavericks have come back from double digit deficits 6 times already this season.
 
The  Mavericks are 11-10 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games.  They would be a tough matchup even with the team at full strength but with KG at less than 100% and Ray Allen coming off the flu,  it is going to be an uphill fight for the Celtics. 

More after the Jump
Probable Starting Matchups
PG:  Rajon Rondo vs Jason Terry
SG:   Tony Allen vs  Eddie Jones
SF:   Paul Pierce vs Josh Howard
PF:  Brian Scalabrine vs Dirk Nowitski (it pains me to type this)
C:   Kendrick Perkins vs Erick Dampier
 
Injuries
Celtics
Scot Pollard, ankle, day to day
Kevin Garnett, AB strain, day to day
Ray Allen, flu, probable
Mavericks
Jerry Stackhouse, hamstring, out
Devin Harris, ankle, out
 
Key Matchups
  Vs 
Rajon Rondo  PPG 9.6 | APG 4.6 | SPG 1.8
PG:  Jason Terry   PPG 15.1 | APG 3.3 | SPG 1.1
Rondo has been playing very aggressive basketball with KG out.  He has been taking it to the hoop and using his speed to the team's advantage.  This should be a good matchup and hopefull Rondo will continue his aggressive play in this game. 

  Vs 
Paul Pierce   PPG 20.1 | RPG 5.7 | APG 5
Josh Howard   PPG 20.9 | RPG 7.5 | APG 2.1 
Pierce had an off game against the Heat and should bounce back with a big game in this one.  Howard is one of the key players for the Mavs and Pierce will have to try to contain him. 

Honorable Mention
Brian Scalabrine vs Dirk Nowitski.   Celtics.com has Scal starting at Power forward.  Doc said that if KG could play he would.  With the Celtics off 4 days after this game, it could go either way. They could play him if he is moving well, figuring that he can rest 4 days before the next game, or they could keep him out figuring that the longer rest would be best for the strain to heal.   A healthy KG would match up very well with Dirk.  Scal would give the Mavs a mismatch to exploit. 

Keys to the Game
Be AggressiveThe Celtics were very aggressive against the Heat, running the ball up the court at every opportunity and hustling for loose balls.  They need to continue to be aggressive whether or not KG and Ray play. 

Offense The Celtics were hitting their shots both inside and out against the Heat.  The Mavs will play much better defense, though and the Celtics need to run their defense and hit those shots even against pressure and tougher defense. They had great ball movement and they have to continue that in spite of more pressure. 

Defense The Celtics need to get back to their swarming defense. We saw it against the Heat and if they play the same kind of defense against the Mavs it will give them a good chance at winning this game. 
 
Point Guard  Rajon Rondo needs to continue being aggressive in taking the ball to the basket as well as getting up the floor quickly.   If they can run as they did against the Heat, they have a very good chance of winning this game.  
 
X-Factor
Kevin Garnett  - The X-factor in this game will be whether KG will play or not.  With KG to matchup with Dirk, it gives the Celtics an advantage.  But, with Scal on Dirk, the advantage goes to the Mavs.