The Celtics go for their first 3 game win streak as they visit the Dallas Mavericks. The Celtics are on the final game of their three game road trip while the Mavs are playing in the first of a 2 game home stand. The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game in 4 nights on the road, having played on Wednesday and Thursday with Friday a travel day. The Mavs haven’t played since Wednesday.
The Celtics are 4-2 on the road and have won their last two games. They are 1-0 vs Western Conference teams. The Mavericks are 3-1 at home and won their last game 109-108 over the San Antonio Spurs, after coming back from a 20 point first quarter deficit. They are 1-2 against Eastern Conference teams. They won their first 3 home games before losing 125-110 at home to the Miami Heat.
The Mavericks swept the series last season winning both games by a total of 8 points. Before last season’s sweep by the Mavs, the Celtics had won 7 of the previous 8 games between them. The Celtics are 42-38 all time against the Mavericks and 17-23 in Dallas. Dallas is averaging 108.8 points on 45.2% shooting at home this year compared to 88.3 points on 35.1% shooting on the road.
Jaylen Brown left the Celtics win over the Heat on Thursday when he felt tightness in his hamstring. Since he has a history of hamstring problems, the Celtics are being cautious with him and he will miss this game. I’m guessing that Romeo Langford will get the start in his place but that’s just a guess. Josh Richardson missed Thursday’s game with a left foot contusion and is questionable for this game, against his former team. His status is a game time decision.
For the Mavericks, Maxi Kleber is out with an oblique injury. Reggie Bullock left Wednesday’s game against the Spurs with a facial injury but was able to practice on Friday and is probable for this game. Kristaps Porzingis has missed the last 5 games for the Mavs. He was able to practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for this game. If he doesn’t play, Jalen Brunson had 31 points and 10 rebounds in his start for Porzingis on Wednesday and will likely get the start once again at shooting guard with Hardaway and Finney-Smith moving up one position.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Josh Richardson (foot) questionable
Probable Mavericks Starters
Kristaps Porzingis (back) questionable
Reggie Bullock (face) probable
Maxi Kleber (oblique) out
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Luka Doncic
Doncic is averaging 23.9 points, 8.3 rebounds 7.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is also averaging 4.1 turnovers per game. He is shooting 42.2% from the field and just 25.4% from beyond the arc. If the Celtics play tough defense, they may be able to frustrate him into turning the ball over and also taking tough shots.
Al Horford vs Kristaps Porzingis
The Mavs are hoping to have Porzingis back for this game but it’s possible that Finney-Smith may be starting here if he is out. Porzingis is averaging 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. He is shooting just 30.2% from the field and 23.5% from beyond the arc. Jason Kidd may decide to bring him off the bench and start Brunson since he was very effective starting when Porzingis was out.
Romeo Langford vs Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Hardaway is averaging 13.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is coming off a big game against the Spurs with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. I’m guessing that Romeo will get the start in Jaylen Brown’s place, but it could be Aaron Nesmith or Dennis Schroder or evern someone else. Romeo played very well against the Heat and hopefully that carries over into this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the #1 key to winning games. The Celtics proved this in their last two games. They faced the to offense in the East in Miami and blew them out by playing lock down defense. The Celtics scored just 95 points but they also held the Heat to 78. The Celtics need to continue to play tough lock down defense if they want to keep winning. Even when the shots aren’t falling, the Celtics can dominate if they play tough defense.
Rebound - Rebounding is also always a key to winning games. When the Celtics grab rebounds it gives them extra possessions and it keeps their opponents from getting those extra possessions. It takes effort and hustle to grab rebounds and the Celtics need to put out that extra effort to beat the Mavs on the boards. The Mavs have 3 players over 7’1” (Porzingis 7’3”, Moses Brown 7’2” and Marjanovic 7’4”) and so it may take even more effort in this one to win the rebounding battle.
Consistent Effort - The Celtics need to bring consistent effort from the opening tip to the final buzzer. They have to start off strong and never let up. They can’t have a bad quarter where they allow the other team to play harder. They have to be the more aggressive team on defending, fighting for loose balls, going for rebounds, taking the ball to the basket and in ever facet of the game. Play hard for 48 minutes with no let up.
Move the Ball and Play as a Team - The Celtics need to move the ball and get the best shots. By moving the ball, they can keep the defense off balance and get open shots. They need to play team defense and have each others backs. If they play as a team on both ends of the court, they can do great things like we saw in Miami. And they can’t do this for one quarter or let up for any period of time. They have to play together for 48 minutes. Hero ball and iso ball rarely win games.
Road Fatigue - The Celtics are playing their 3rd straight game on the road. They are also playing in their third game in 4 nights. They need to keep their focus on playing the right way and not let the distractions of the road take away that focus. Between 3 games in 4 nights and travel between, it would be understandable if the Celtics were a bit tired. They need to dig down deep and match the energy of the Mavs who are home and have had 2 days off.
Officiating - The Officiating is always a factor and more so than ever this season. With the change in rules for calling fouls for players on offense, players are struggling and frustrated because they aren’t getting to the line as they have in years past. The Celtics need to adapt to those new rules and not complain to the refs when they don’t get the calls they think they should.
Jayson Tatum - Tatum has been struggling on the offensive end for much of this young season. With Jaylen Brown out, the Celtics could really use a big and efficient game from him. The Celtics can win without Jayson having a big game as long as they play tough defense but it would be much easier if Jayson can get his game back on track.