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Boston Celtics at Dallas Mavericks Game #31 2/23/21

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The Celtics continue their 3 game road trip with a stop in Dallas to take on the Mavericks.

Dallas Mavericks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics play the second game of a 3 game road trip in Dallas as they take on the Mavericks. This is their first meeting of the season and there will likely be a game in Boston when the second half of the schedule is released. The Celtics will complete their road trip on Wednesday as they take on the Atlanta Hawks for the 3rd time in a week.

The Celtics have slipped to 6th in the East. They are 4.5 games behind 2st place Philadelphia. They are half a game behind 4th place Indiana and 5th place Toronto. They are also just half a game ahead of the 7th place Knicks and 8th place Hornets and just 1.5 games from being 9th in 9th place. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 7-10 on the road. They are 4-6 against Western Conference teams.

The Mavericks are 9th in the West. They are 1 games out of 8th place and a shot at the playoffs. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 7-8 at home. They are coming off a wire to wire win over the Grizzlies after not playing for over a week when 2 games were cancelled due to Covid. The Mavs are 6-5 vs Eastern Conference teams.

The Mavericks are playing in the second of back to back games. They played at home vs the Grizzlies on Monday night. They are 1-4 on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics are playing on the first night of their final back to back set of the first half. They are 6-0 so far when playing on the first night of back to back games.

The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. They have won 3 straight games against the Mavs and 7 of their last 8 against them. Before those last 8 games between them, Dallas won 7 straight and 11 of the previous 12 games. Between 2010 and 2016, Dallas swept 5 of the 6 seasons series. The Celtics are 42-36 all time vs the Mavs and 17-22 in Dallas.

Marcus Smart is still out with the calf injury and Romeo Langford is also still out with the wrist injury and neither is expected to return until after the All Star break in March. I expect the starters to be the same as the group that started against the Pelicans. Kristaps Porzingis missed Monday’s game vs the Grizzlies with tightness in his back and is considered questionable for this game. If he misses this game, Dwight Powell is likely to get the start as he did against Memphis. Maxi Kleber left Monday’s game with a sprained ankle and is also questionable for this game.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson

Celtics Reserves
Payton Pritchard
Tremont Waters
Robert Williams III
Tacko Fall
Jeff Teague
Carsen Edwards
Aaron Nesmith
Grant Williams
Javonte Green
Semi Ojeleye

Injuries
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Romeo Langford (wrist) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Mavericks Starters

PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Josh Richardson
SF: Dorian Finney-Smith
PF: Maxi Kleber
C: Kristaps Porzingis

Mavericks Reserves
Tyler Bey
Jalen Brunson
Trey Burke
Willie Cauley-Stein
Josh Green
Tim Hardaway, Jr
Nate Hinton
Wes Iwundu
James Johnson
Boban Marjanovic
Dwight Powell
Tyrell Terry

Injuries
Kristaps Porzingis (back) questionable
Maxi Kleber (ankle) questionable

Head Coach
Rick Carlisle

Key Matchups

Kemba Walker vs Luca Doncic
Doncic is averaging 29.1 points, 8,6 rebounds, 9,4 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He is the Mavericks’ best player and if the Celtics can slow him down, it will go a long way toward getting a win. Kemba struggled against the Pelicans after having 4 solid games. Hopefully he is back to good Kemba for this game.

Tristan Thompson vs Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis missed Monday’s game against the Grizzlies and is questionable for this game with back stiffness. That would be a break for the Celtics since he is averaging 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 blocks and the Celtics don’t have Marcus Smart to guard him and make him cry. If Porzingis can’t go in this game, former Celtics Dwight Powell will likely once again get the start.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Josh Richardson
Richardson is averaging 12.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is a good defender and will try to make it more difficult for Brown to score.

Tacko Fall vs Boban Marjanovich
This could be a fun matchup. Hopefully the Celtics are way ahead and 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 112.9 points per game while the Celtics average 110.8 points per game. The Celtics have dropped to 11th in the league in defensive rating at 110.1. The Mavs are 27th in defensive rating at 114.6. The Celtics are 0-10 when they shoot less than 33% from beyond the arc and are 1-9 when they shoot less than 45% from the field. If they aren’t having a hot shooting night, they can’t win. They must turn that around and make defense a priority once again. They 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 44.0 rebounds per game while the Mavs are averaging 42.3 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to put out extra effort on the boards to keep the Mavs from getting extra possessions and second chance points and to give the same to themselves.

Move the Ball - It’s no coincidence that the Celtics have lost the games to the Wizards (14), Pistons (15) and Hawks (19) when they had fewer than 20 assists. Also, in their recent wins over the Nuggets and Hawks, they had 26 assists and in their big win over the Clippers they had 30 assists. They had a total of 22 assists against the Pelicans, but they had 14 assists in the first half when they built their big lead and then only 8 assists in the entire second half and overtime when the Pelicans outplayed them. They have to move the ball and play as a team. Hero ball is a recipe for a loss.

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. Both extremes can be seen in their last game against the Pelicans. 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 give a consistent effort from the tip to the final buzzer.

Run and Be Aggressive - Too often we see the Celtics walking the ball up and seemingly having no urgency. They have to run and get up the court before the opponent gets their defense set. 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, 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.

X-Factors
On the Road - Even without fans in most of the arenas, playing on the road offers distractions for the team. This is the second game of the road trip and they have one more before they head home. They need to focus on the game and on playing the right way and not on travel, hotel stays, and road weariness. They have to play harder and focus more in order to get a win on the road.

Officiating - The officiating can always be an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently and teams need to adjust to how the game is being called. Will they call the game tight or will they let them play? The Celtics can’t let the officiating take away their focus and have to play for the score rather than the foul.