Coming off an impressive home win on Wednesday night to the Timberwolves, the Celtics get back into action tonight against the better than expected Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks come into this game off a 38-point road win against the Charlotte Hornets. It was an impressive beat down as they started their three-game east coast trip. The last time these two teams played was back in November when the Mavericks defeated the Celtics 113-104 in Dallas. J.J. Barea went off and scored 20 points to lead the Mavs to the win.
Dallas has been one of the best stories of the NBA season this year, and it all stems from rookie sensation Luka Doncic. Doncic has been one of the most highly touted rookie the league has seen in some time. If you hadn’t heard yet, Luka is only 19. He is averaging 19.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.0 assists this season which leads the team in points and is second in rebounds and assists. Even as he was getting a good amount of praise coming over from Real Madrid before the draft, no one expected his impact to be this instant pulling the Mavericks to an around .500 record.
Back in their first meeting, Doncic scored 15 points on 5-11 shooting and also added 8 assists. He will be the biggest focus for the Celtics on defense because of his overall impact on the game. Brad Stevens and this team will have to sure up what happened last time in Dallas because the game was theirs to take until a barrage of three-pointers made the game unreachable for the Celtics. J.J. Barea will not be able to play hero ball again and lead the Mavs in scoring, so if the Celtics, can stop him, look for the game to go their way.
The biggest key with Boston tonight is going to be on the offense end. Gordon Hayward carried the team (LINK) in the Celtics last game finally showing a scoring explosion putting up 35 points on an efficient 14-18 shooting. This performance was incredibly relieving to see that he still has that in his system. His rehab back from his injury has been a long process, but maybe this output is what he needs to get it together consistently. He did not play the last time they faced the Mavericks, so his contributions will help the cause tonight.
Terry Rozier will also be a big factor in this game with Irving still out with his eye injury. He scored 16 points in the starting roll Wednesday. Unfortunately, Rozier has been one of the bigger disappointments this season, so it will be important for him to try and improve on this stage especially if the Celtics look to trade him in the coming future.
The team will once again be without Aron Baynes and, as mentioned, Kyrie Irving for this game. Kyrie scored 19 points for them in their previous matchup. The rest of the team will have to step up without him like they did Wednesday night against the Timberwolves. Also, Marcus Morris Sr. will be questionable with a neck strain, as will Rob Williams with a left groin strain. Morris has been one of the most important players on the Celtics this season, so the Celtics will need him tonight.
For the Mavericks, their injury list is empty with everyone active for tonight’s game in Boston. Dirk Nowitizki had been rested in a few of their other road trips, but luckily for Celtics fans, he will be playing in what should be his last game in Boston. He is truly a legend of the game that should not be missed.
The starting lineups will consist of Terry Rozier taking over Kyrie Irving’s spot. Also, there is a question of who fits in if Marcus Morris is held out of action. Hayward may be the best guess to see if he can continue with his offensive performance of his last game.
The keys will be to limit Doncic’s impact on the game while continuing the smooth offense of Wednesday. The Celtics, even short-handed, should be able to defeat the Mavericks at home in front of a Friday night crowd.
PG – Terry Rozier – Dennis Smith Jr.
SG – Marcus Smart – Luka Doncic
SF – Jayson Tatum – Wesley Matthews
PF – Jaylen Brown – Harrison Barnes
C – Al Horford – DeAndre Jordan
Boston – Aron Baynes (Out, Hand); Kyrie Irving (Out, Eye); Marcus Morris Sr. (Out, Neck); Rob Williams (Questionable, Groin)
Dallas – NONE
How To Watch
Time – 8:00 (Changed from 7:30)
TV – ESPN; NBC Sports Boston