After a six day break, the Celtics travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks for the second and final time this season. The Celtics beat the Mavs 116-106 in Boston on November 11. The Celtics were without Hayward, who was still out with the hand injury in that game while the Mavericks were at full strength.
The Celtics are 7-6 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Mavericks are 8-6 at home and 7-3 in their last 10. The Celtics are 3rd in the East while the Mavericks are 3rd in the West. The Celtics are 6-3 vs Western Conference teams while the Mavs are 7-4 vs Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics have lost their last 2 games while the Mavs are coming off a big win over the Bucks that stopped their 18 game win streak.
The Celtics have been resting since their Thursday night loss to the 76ers last week. They had some time off to spend with their families and then were able to get back to work as they tried to figure out how to get back in the win column after losing their last two games. The time off wasn’t enough to get them healthy, however, and it seems that they are less healthy than when the break started.
Marcus Smart’s eye infection spread from his left eye to the right eye. The duration for that type of infection is supposed to be 7-10 days and it has been 8 days since its onset. It’s hard to tell whether it will take another 7-10 days for the right eye to heal now. He did not travel with the team.
Gordon Hayward is a late scratch for this game and will be out with left foot soreness. With both Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward out, I really don’t know who Brad will plug into the starting lineup. It could be Grant Williams or Semi Ojeleye or even Romeo Langford or maybe someone else. I’m going to take a wild guess that it will be Semi but it may very well be Grant again.
Robert Williams’ sore hip has been diagnosed as a bone edema and he will be out for at least 3 weeks as it takes rest for that to heal. Vincent Poirier fractured his finger in practice and it required surgery. He may be out 6 weeks with that injury. Jayson Tatum has a sinus infection and was at practice on Monday, but isn’t 100% and is now probable for this game.
The Celtics have recalled Romeo Langford from the Red Claws to give them some depth on the wings with Marcus Smart out and with Jayson Tatum a game time decision. They have also called up Tacko Fall to give them some depth at center and with both Vincent Poirier and Robert Williams out, he may even get some playing time.
For the Mavericks, Luka Doncic is the only player listed on their injury list. He is out with a sprained ankle. They expect him to be out until at least Christmas. He is their leading scorer and their leader, but they were able to beat the Bucks in Milwaukee without him, so they are still a very dangerous team, even without Doncic.
Probable Celtics Starters
Carsen Edwards assigned to G-League
Marcus Smart (eye) out
Vincent Poirier (finger) out
Robert Williams (hip) out
Gordon Hayward (foot) out
Jayson Tatum (sinuses) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Mavericks Starters
Luka Doncic (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Kristaps Porzingis
Tatum will have his hands full with Porzingis, who is averaging 17.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.0 blocks. The Celtics will miss Marcus Smart’s defense in this one as he has been able to smother Porzingis to the point of tears in the past. With Doncic out, there is only one other player in the starting lineup who is averaging in double figures and so they should be able to give some help to Jayson to try to contain Porzingis.
Jaylen Brown vs Tim Hardaway, JrTim Hardaway, Jr is the only other starter for the Mavericks who is averaging in double figures. He is averaging 13.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. He is shooting 42% from the field and 36.3% from beyond the arc. Jaylen should be able to stay with him on defense without too much of a problem.
Honorable Mention Brad Wanamaker vs Seth Curry
Seth isn’t the scorer that his brother is, but he is still a good shooter and is one of their main weapons off the bench. He is averaging 9.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He is shooting 47% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. He can have a big game if not defended well.
Tacko Fall vs Boban MarjanovichThis could be a fun matchup. Hopefully we will get to see 7’5” Tacko Fall against 7’4” Boban Marjanovich. It may not be the best matchup but it will certainly be a big one!
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. Defense is always the number one key to winning games. The Mavs are averaging 118.2 points per game while the Celtics average just 110.8 points per game. The Celtics have dropped to 8th in the league in defensive rating at 104.1, after two sub-par outings without their defensive leader. The Mavs are 14th in defensive rating at 108.0. The Celtics must play tough in your face defense if they want to win this game.
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 45.2 rebounds per game while the Mavs are averaging 48.1 rebounds per game, which is third in the league. The Celtics need to put out extra effort on the boards to keep the Mavs from getting extra possessions and second chance points as they are 2nd in the league with 15.2 second chance points per game.
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.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have played very well at times and they have also had times during games where they struggle, turning the ball over and being unable to score. They have had times when they are sluggish at the start and other times when they get a big lead and allow their opponent to hang around and surge ahead at the end. They have to start off strong and play hard, on both ends of the court, right up until the final buzzer.
Rust vs Rest - The Celtics haven’t played since last Thursday and have had time for rest and for practice. The Mavericks, on the other hand, played just Monday and beat the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee. Sometimes a rest allows a team to come out refreshed and playing hard. Other times they come out sluggish and rusty. To make it worse, the Celtics have injuries to key players along with the rust to make up for.
Next Man Up - The Celtics are missing their heart and soul with Marcus Smart not with the team. The rest of the team must step up and pick up the slack on the defensive end. Also, with two of their centers out, others must play harder to fill in for their absence. The Mavericks are missing a key player with Doncic out also. Which team will step up to help their team win?
On the Road - The Celtics, especially the young players, need to focus on the game and not allow the hostile crowd and the distractions of playing on the road to take their heads out of the game. They have to play harder and focus more in order to get a win on the road.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently and teams need to adjust to how the game is being called. The officiating was pretty rough for the Celtics in their last two games and it may get rougher in this one. Tony Brothers, who is widely known as one of the worst refs in the league, is the lead ref for this game. He was voted the worst ref in the league by 24.5% of the players in their recent survey. With Brothers, you never know what you will get. Sometimes he calls everything on both teams. Sometimes he lets both teams play. And, sometimes he calls a game one sided for one of the teams. Hopefully we get the Tony Brothers that lets them play both ways in this game. Usually when fans of any team sees Brothers calling their games, they cringe.