After having their 9 game win streak broken by the Chicago Bulls on Monday, the Celtics look to get back on track as they host the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks are coming off a loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. This is the first game of a six game home stand for the Celtics. The Mavericks are playing in the first game of a 3 game road trip.
The Celtics are still first in the East, leading the second place Bucks by just half a game. They are 6-1 at home and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are 4-0 against Western Conference teams. The Mavericks are 9th in the West, just 1.5 games out of first place. They are 1-4 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 4-2 against Eastern Confernce teams.
This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Dallas on January 5. The Mavericks have won the last 4 meetings between them, sweeping the last two seasons. Both wins last season were 3 point wins on Dallas game winners. The Celtics are 42-40 all time overall against the Mavericks and they are 25-16 in games played in Boston.
This game is being billed as a duel between two of the NBA’s top scorers in Boston forward Jayson Tatum and Dallas guard Luka Doncic. Tatum is averaging 30.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, and Doncic is averaging an NBA-best 33.5 points to go with 9.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.9 steals per contest. Jayson Tatum’s status for this game will be a game time decision.
Robert Williams III remains out with the knee injury, although he is getting closer to a return. Danilo Gallinari will miss the entire season after tearing his ACL in the off season. Jayson Tatum is a new addition to the injury list. He sprained his ankle at some time in the Celtics loss to the Bulls on Monday. He is listed as questionable and will be a game time decision. If he can’t play, I expect Derrick White to start at shooting guard and Jaylen Brown to slide into the small forward spot unless Coach Mazzulla decides to start Sam Hauser at the three instead.
For the Mavericks, Maxi Kleber is listed as doubtful for this game with a lower back contusion. He has missed the last 3 games due to the back injury. Spencer Dinwiddie dislocated his shoulder during Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets. When asked if he would miss time with the injury Jason Kidd said he didn’t believe so but he is listed as questionable. Dinwiddie’s status will be a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Jayson Tatum (ankle) questionable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Mavericks Starters
Tim Hardaway, Jr
Two Way Players
McKinley Wright IV
Maxi Kleber (back) doubtful
Spencer Dinwiddie (shoulder) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Luka Doncic
Doncic is averaging 33.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He is shooting 49.4% from the field and 28.8% from beyond the arc. He averaged 27.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in 7 career games against the Celtics. The Celtics must make slowing Doncic down a priority.
Jaylen Brown vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie is averaging 17.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 40.7% from beyond the arc. He is capable of putting up big numbers if not well defended. He may be slightly hampered by a sore shoulder if he plays. The Celtics need a solid game from Brown on both ends of the court.
Grant Williams vs Doran Finney-Smith
Finney-Smith is averaging 8.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game. He is shooting 41% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. He is third behind Doncic and Dinwiddie in scoring among the starters.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the number one key to winning games. The Mavs are averaging 109.1 points per game while the Celtics average 119.4 points per game. The Mavs are 5th with a defensive rating of 108.7 while the Celtics are 16th with a defensive rating of 111.8. When the Celtics struggle on offense, they have to be able so stop the other team from scoring, but they weren’t able to do that on Monday against the Bulls. The Celtics need to play tough, lock down defense for the entire game. If they play lax defense to start they are liable to dig themselves a hole that they won’t get out of. They have to defend from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
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 42.5 rebounds per game (23rd) while the Mavs are averaging 38.9 rebounds per game (30th). 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.
Stay Focused - The Celtics need to come into the game focused on taking good shots and hitting them. They have to focus on making good passes and not get sloppy with the ball. The Mavericks score 19.8 points off turnovers per game while at the same time being 1st in the league in taking care of the ball, committing just 12.6 turnovers themselves. The Celtics also have to focus on taking care of the ball when dribbling and not make careless unforced errors.
Be Aggressive and Play Hard - The Mavericks win a lot of games by playing harder then their opponents. The Celtics must be aggressive on defense, in going for rebounds, in driving to the basket, in diving for loose balls, and in every aspect of the game. They have to play hard from the opening tip until the final buzzer with no let up. They allowed the Bulls to be more aggressive and play harder than them on Monday and it cost them the game. They have to be the team that plays harder because if they let up, the Mavericks will have the advantage.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home and they should get motivation from playing in front of their fans. The Celtics have had a day off after playing in Chicago on Monday. The Mavericks have had two days off but are on the road. The Mavericks are just 1-4 on the road and have played most of their games at home so far. The Celtics need to defend their home court and draw energy from their fans.
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 they have to adjust to the way the game is being called and not spend so much time complaining about no calls or bad calls. They have to focus on the game and not on the referees and the calls.