Dallas Mavericks (26-14) @ Boston Celtics (27-11)
Time: Monday, January 18th, 8:00PM EST
TV: TNT, CSNNE Radio: WEEI
Venue: TD Garden
Count: Game 39, Home Game 18 (11-16)
There seems to be a life cycle for elite teams in the NBA, especially if they are, how you say, older? Senior? The cycle goes that they charge out of the gate for 3 or 4 games, and people anoint them. Then they drop a few games and people wonder if they’re too old, too injured..just not ready. Then they win a few games and a few "watch out for the AARP" columns come out. Then they drop a few and panic ensues. And so on until..they finally get it together. They just start beating good teams and bad teams with a blind eye for who is who. Usually it happens sometime around the all-star break.
Well consider these Celtics now. In the 28 games from opening day to Christmas, the Celtics managed to go a league leading 23-5. They had achieved 3 games or more win streaks 3 times, and had in there 6 and 11 game streaks. On Christmas, in Orlando, without Kevin Garnett, they managed to take revenge for an early season drumming,
Then, take the last 10 games. In those 10 games the Celtics have managed to double their loss total from the first 28 games. In these last 10 games the Celtics managed their first 3 game losing streak, and achieved a paltry 4-6 record since Christmas.
Well this Dallas game is a good place to start turning heads. Should the Celtics lose, they’ll have lost three home games for the first time in nearly 2 years. Their six losses at home so far this season is already equal to the home losses for the entirety of last season.
Of the next 11 games however, 7 are at home, and in that regard this game, and those coming up in this next 3 week stretch of the season are critical. Here is what Doc has to say:
"It's a concern," Rivers said Saturday. "I don't know if we've lost the edge or not, but we have to be better at home, and you can't blame those (losses) on injuries because (for) most of them we were healthy.
"These next two weeks are going to be tough because we'll be trying to get guys back. But I look at the All-Star break and if our team is (completely healthy) then we have to try to run the stretch for home games. We have to try to win every one."- via ESPN
Dallas, while no easy pickens, has been struggling of late also. They’ve gone 2-3 over their last 5, and are in the midst of only the second game of a 5 game eastern sweep road trip.
Elite teams, especially older ones follow a life cycle. For the first part of the season, they’re fresh, so they should win a large amount of games. For the second part of the season, they get tired, nagging injuries appear, and because of the first part of the season, the sense of urgency isn’t there to win every game. Eventually though, they either click or they don’t, and while there is still a lot of season left, but we’re just shy of halfway done. At some point "they’re just an old team, they’ll get going", or "the injuries have caught up with them, just let them get healthy" isn’t enough anymore. I know losing one or two more games while Kevin Garnett gets healthy isn't the end of the world, but I hope it doesn't happen. We’ve got plenty of excuses, I’d like to see us get some wins, and I think it starts tonight against Dallas.
Probable Starting Lineups
Injuries and Stuff: Kevin Garnett (OUT), Marquis Daniels (OUT)
|7||Jose Juan Barea||23.4||9.1||2.0||3.6|
Injuries and stuff: Tim Thomas (Day to Day, ankle)
Moster Matchup: Dirk Nowitzki V Rasheed Wallace
Dirk Nowitzki is hard for just about anyone to cover. He's 7ft tall, and he can shoot from basically anywhere within halfcourt. On top of that, he will still do his McHale impression and body up in the paint. This problem however is two-fold for us. Rasheed Wallace has proven so far this season that while in the paint he's one of the league's better defenders. Really, he is. He's long, he bothers shots, and he's a good help defender. However, he's also shown us to have the lateral quickness of a tetonic plate. So we can't let Dirk shoot, because that will just end badly. However, we can't let Rasheed wander out there with Dirk, because 1) he won't be there to help with penetration from guys like Terry, Howard, or Marion, but 2) he'll have to work triply hard to defend Dirk off the dribble. Also, I'm inclined to believe that if Rasheed is working twice as hard on defense, he'll be that much more likely to settle for a god awful three pt shot.
Other Noteable Matchups:
Rajon Rondo V Jason Kidd- This one looks like a clear win for us. Rondo is more than fast enough to keep Kidd under wraps, and he's no longer the unseasoned rookie who gets consistently caught by veteran tricks. In fact, Rondo has a few tricks of his own now.
Josh Howard V Ray Allen- This one looks like neither will do well on defense against the other. Josh Howard is too big and strong for Ray Allen to keep out of the paint, but Ray Allen is too quick, wiley and untiring for Josh Howard to keep up off the screens. It will depend who is hitting shots more than anything, but neither one should have too much trouble finding open looks.
Keys To The Game For the Good Guys:
1) Solid, Patient, Team Defense: Dallas has proven themselves to be a decent team made up of individual talents, rather than a really good team made up of solid characters. If we can mentally stay sharp, focused, and unforgiving on defense, Dallas will regress into frustrated 1 on 1 basketball, and that's what we need.
2) Perkins, go be a hero: Did you know that in the month of January our man Perkules is averaging roughly 35 mins, 14 points, and 9 boards per game? Erick Dampier is an okay defender and decent rebounding, but neither him nor Drew Gooden will really be able to limit our man Perkins. We need to see Perk stay agressive in the paint, and we gotta see him stay out of foul trouble.
3) Don't Leave the Bench!: One of the Mavericks biggest (and most expensive) assets is that they are a legitimate 10 strong team. The bench, from Barea to Ross, are all borderline starters. On our bench we have Tony Allen (irratic), Eddie House (streak shooter), and Glen Davis (still playing himself into game shape, and it shows there, lunchbox. It shows.). I don't know how Doc handles this, but I think our biggest thread comes not from the Mavs' starting five, strong as it may be, it comes from their core bench players, because we are awfully overmatched there.
Bill Walker Watch: 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 Earth Shattering Mind Blowing Dunks
Probability of Significant Court Time: 0% This game here tonight matters, Billy. Sorry pal.