The Celtics continues their 3 game road trip with a visit to the Dallas Mavericks. They will meet once again in Boston on December 6. The Mavericks are the owners of the worst record in the league, 1/2 game behind the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics last opponent. However, they are coming off a 111-79 win over the Bucks, who are 7th in the East. They also have a 113-99 win over the Wizards who are 5th in the East and so the Celtics can't take this team for granted.
The Mavericks are 2-8 at home and 2-3 versus Eastern Conference teams. They won their last game, after losing 4 straight and would love to get their first 2 game win streak of the season. The Celtics are looking for their 16th straight win. They are 8-1 on the road and 5-0 over Western Conference teams. The Celtics won the series between these two teams 2-0 last season.
The Celtics have everyone available and healthy other than Gordon Hayward. For the Mavericks, Seth Curry (leg), Dorian Finney-Smith (knee) and Josh McRoberts (knee) are all out. I've listed the starting lineup given in each team's game notes. But, as we all know, this could change by game time.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Seth Curry (leg) out
Dorian Finney-Smith (knee) out
Josh McRoberts (knee) out
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Harrison Barnes
Barnes is averaging a team best 18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. Jayson has been playing well on the defensive end and he needs to continue that against Barnes. He struggled in the first half against the Hawks but came alive in the second half. Hopefully that carries over to this game.
Kyrie Irving vs Dennis Smith, Jr
Dennis Smith has been playing well and has been mentioned in Rookie of the Year conversations. Smith is averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists and Kyrie should win this matchup easily, though.
Al Horford vs Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk has lost a step from when he was in his prime but he is still very dangerous if you don't stay with him on defense. He is averaging 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. Al should win this matchup as well.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are allowing 94.4 points per game, which is the best in the league. The Mavericks are allowing 105.6 points per game and are averaging just 98.9 points per game. If the Celtics come out with their normal lock down defense, they should get a win in this one. They have to be careful not to let up on defense, thinking that the Mavs won't score on them. They have to continue to make defense a priority.
Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics have to put out extra effort to win the battle of the boards. When they work hard on the boards, it usually follows through to the rest of the game as well. The Celtics are averaging 47.5 rebounds per game while the Mavs are averaging 41.5 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to continue to crash the boards as a team.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team in going to the basket, diving for loose balls, going after 50/50 balls, grabbing rebounds, and just playing harder in general. They have to be the team that wants the win more. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of questionable calls and so the Celtics need to be sure that they are more aggressive on both ends of the court.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man but they also need to make careful passes so as not to turn the ball over. They have to keep their focus and avoid costly turnovers that could lead to easy points for the Mavs.
Effort and Focus - The Celtics can't lose their focus on the road. This is the second They have to play hard, be aggressive, run and move the ball. They also have to keep their focus and overcome the distractions that playing on the road brings. If the effort and focus are there, they should win their 16th straight game.
Overconfidence - The Celtics can't underestimate the Mavericks in spite of their league worst record. The Mavs have quality wins over 3 playoff teams. They held the Bucks to just 79 points and beat them in a blowout. If the Celtics let up and think they can win with less than full effort, they are likely to join the Bucks and Wizards as victims of the Mavs.