If the Boston Celtics are to get back to .500 on the young season, they’ll have to do it without Jaylen Brown. Boston is playing it cautiously with Brown’s hamstring tightness. He’ll get five days off before the Celtics play next. That will hopefully get him feeling better.
As the Celtics finish up a three-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, here’s what we’re looking for:
1. Does Aaron Nesmith keep getting minutes? With Josh Richardson out against the Miami Heat on Thursday, Nesmith got his first extended run of the season. After hitting a three-pointer in garbage-time as Boston blew out the Orlando Magic, Nesmith carried it over with 13 points in 18 minutes against the Heat.
There’s a chance Richardson may not play in Dallas, as he’s got a bruised foot. If Richardson can’t go, Nesmith should see even more minutes. Here’s to hoping he continues to make the most of them.
2. Who guards Luka Doncic? This will likely be Marcus Smart, at least to open the game. From there, expect everyone from Romeo Langford to Aaron Nesmith to Jayson Tatum to Josh Richardson (if he plays) to spend time on Doncic. Boston may also use Dennis Schroder and Payton Pritchard on Doncic to pester him as a ballhandler. Mostly, it’s about making the Mavs star work, while also trying to tire him out.
Doncic is averaging 24/8/8, but he’s gotten off to a slow start shooting-wise. On the year, Doncic is hitting 42% overall and just above 25% from behind the arc. It’s up to Boston to keep making life difficult on him.
3. Can Jayson Tatum find his shot? Speaking of slow starts shooting-wise, the Celtics star forward is in a major slump. Tatum is at 37.3% overall and 27.1% on three-pointers. Tatum has shown a propensity for slow starts, but this is an extreme.
So far, the Mavericks have had a middle-of-the-road defense. Without Jaylen Brown, the Celtics need someone to pick up the consistent scoring slack. That should be Jayson Tatum. This is a perfect opportunity for Tatum to bust out of season-long slump.