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Celtics and Mavericks Square Off in 'Big D'

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Boston Celtics (44-24) at Dallas Mavericks (46-22)Saturday, March 20, 20099:00pmTV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: WEEIVenue: American Airlines ArenaGame Thread [] Chat Room

The Boston Celtics aim for their fourth straight win on the second night of a back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks tonight at 9:00pm.

The C's are coming off a solid, 94-87 win over the Houston Rockets last night, led by Paul Pierce's 26 points. The C's also received 19 points from Ray Allen and 15 points from Kevin Garnett. However, given it's the second night of a back-to-back, the C's will need noteworthy performances from not only their starters, but also their bench. Glen Davis gave great energy, Nate Robinson scored two vital baskets late in the third quarter, and Rasheed Wallace hauled in nine rebounds against Houston last night, and it will be pivotal that those three players, along with Marquis Daniels and Michael Finley, all make their mark against Dallas' second unit.

The Mavericks have been on a tear of late, winners of 14 of their last 15 games, and are just two games removed from an impressive 13-game win streak. The blockbuster-ish trade that brought Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to Dallas has certainly paid off thus far, as Dallas managed to add two more dynamic players to an already potent starting unit. The Mavs have averaged 103.4 points per game since the deal, and should very much be in the hunt for the Western Conference crown come playoff time.

But first they must deal with the Celtics, whose impressive play of late does not seem to be reliant upon playing some of the worst teams in the league. Also, given the physical ailments that have hindered the likes of Pierce and Garnett, it will be interesting to see how they respond to the second night of a difficult back-to-back.

Projected Starters:
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Mavericks: Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
Health Check: The Celtics are healthy.
For the Mavericks, point guard Jose Juan Barea (illness) is listed as questionable, while forward Tim Thomas (personal reasons) is out.

Keep It In Mind: The Mavericks are 14-2 since they acquired Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood via trade.
Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Paul Pierce scored 26 points against the Houston Rockets last night.
For the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler combined for 53 points against the Bulls last Wednesday.
Who's Not: For the Celtics, Marquis Daniels was held scoreless in nearly 20 minutes of action last night.
For the Mavericks, Jason Kidd shot 0-5 against the Bulls on Wednesday, scoring no points in the process.

Key Matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Honorable Mention: Ray Allen vs. Caron Butler

Skinny: The Mavericks are athletic enough to break the game open in the full court, but poised enough to execute their halfcourt sets. Rajon Rondo should have his hands full with the savvy Jason Kidd, who trails Rajon for fourth in the league in assists by .5 dimes per game. Kidd's also shooting 41.9 percent from three-point nation, should Rondo needs to be weary of him along the perimeter.

The Mavericks are also a very capable rebounding The Mavericks are also a very capable rebounding team as they average just under 42 per game. Haywood's athletic enough to give Kendrick Perkins fits under the rim, so a big onus falls on Rasheed Wallace to step his game up on the glass, much like he did last night against Houston's (undersized) front line. Keep an eye on Pierce and Garnett, and see how they respond in one of the toughest back-to-backs of the season. KG will obviously have his plate full going up against Nowitzki, and Pierce will need to deal with the athletic Shawn Marion, who could also pose problems for him on the defensive end.