The Celtics conclude their 2 game home stand with a visit from the Dallas Mavericks. This is the second and final game between these two teams this season. The Mavericks won the first game 107-104 in Dallas on November 16 when Luka Doncic hit a 3 pointer at the buzzer to give Dallas the win. The Celtics were 0-2 last season against the Mavs with wins of 5 points and 3 points. The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown in that game.
The Celtics remain 5th in the East and have won their last 5 games. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and they are 24-11 at home. They are 11-11 against Western Conference teams. They are just half a game behind both 4th place Chicago and 3rd place Philadelphia. They are 1 game behind 2nd place Milwaukee and 3.5 out of first place. They are 2.5 games ahead of 6th place Cleveland and 4 ahead of 7th place Toronto.
The Mavericks are in 5th place in the West and are coming off a win. They had a 5 game win streak broken by the Knicks before that last win. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 18-14 on the road. They are 11-11 against Eastern Conference teams. They are one game behind 4th place Utah and 4.5 games behind 3rd place Golden State. They are 1 game ahead of 6th place Denver and 3 games ahead of 7th place Minnesota.
Both of these teams changed a bit at the trade deadline. The Celtics swapped Dennis Schroder, Romeo Langford, Enes Freedom, and Josh Richardson for Derrick White and Daniel Theis. The Mavericks swapped Kristaps Porzingis for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. Both teams have played very well since the All Star break. The Celtics are 42-39 all time overall against the Mavericks and 25-15 when the games are played in Boston.
The Celtics are playing in the second game of a 2 game home stand. After this game they will head out on a 4 game Western road trip through Golden State, Sacramento, Denver and Oklahoma City. After that they head back to Boston for 2 more games vs Western teams against Utah and Minnesota. The Mavericks are playing in the 2nd game of a 5 game road trip that will have them going to Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Charlotte after this game.
This will be a matchup of 2 of the hottest players in the league. Jayson Tatum has scored at least 30 points in his last 5 games. Luka Doncic has scored at least 30 points in his last 4 games. Doncic is 4th in the league in scoring with 28.1 points per game while Tatum is 8th in the league with 26.8 points per game. But, they also contribute to their teams in other ways with Doncic also averaging 9.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists and Tatum averaging 8.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. In the first game between these two teams, Tatum had 32 points and 11 rebounds while Doncic had 33 points and 9 rebounds and hit the game winner for the Mavericks.
Aaron Nesmith is still on the Celtics injury list with a sprained ankle. The Mavericks have 2 starters listed as questionable on their injury list. Jalen Brunson has missed 2 of the last 3 games with a thigh injury and is questionable for this game. If he can’t play, Spencer Dinwiddie will likely get the start. Dorian Finney-Smith missed Friday’s game and is questionable with a right arm contusion. If he can’t play, Josh Green will likely get the start once again. In addition to these two players, Marquese Chriss (knee), Tim Hardaway, Jr (foot) and Theo Pinson (finger) are all out.
Probable Celtics Starters
Malik Fitts (10 day)
Kelan Martin (10 day)
Aaron Nesmith (ankle) out
Probable Mavericks Starters
Marquese Chriss (knee) out
Tim Hardaway, Jr (foot) out
Theo Pinson (finger) out
Jalen Brunson (thigh) questionable
Dorian Finney-Smith (arm) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Luka Doncic
Doncic is averaging 28.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.2% from the field and 22.7% from beyond the arc. He averaged 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in 6 career games against the Celtics. He scored 33 points and hit the game winner in the Maverick’s win over the Celtics in November. The Celtics must make slowing Doncic down a priority.
Jaylen Brown vs Jalen Brunson
Brunson is averaging 16.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He is shooting 50% from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc. He is capable of putting up big numbers if not well defended. He missed 2 of the last 3 games and is questionable for this game with a thigh injury. If he can’t play, Spencer Dinwiddie will likely get the start in his place. Dinwiddie is averaging 17.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He is shooting 52.6% from the field and 43.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need a solid game from Brown on both ends of the court.
Robert Williams III vs Dwight Powell
Powell was a Celtic for part of the 2014-15 season. Hopefully that isn’t enough for him to look for a revenge game against the Celtics. He has started 56 games for the Mavs this season and is averaging 8.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He his shooting 65.5% from the field and 38.2% from beyond the arc, although he doesn’t shoot many 3 pointers. He is capable of big games and is coming off a 26 point, 11 rebound game in the win over the Rockets.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the number one key to winning games. The Mavs are averaging 106.8 points per game while the Celtics average 109.7 points per game. The Celtics are now tops in the league with a defensive rating of 105.6. The Mavs are 6th with a defensive rating of 107.9. Since January 1, Dallas is second with a defensive rating of 106.9 while the Celtics are first over that time with a defensive rating of 103.5. The Celtics need to play tough, lock down defense for the entire game. If they play lax defense to start as they did against the Pistons, 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 46.3 rebounds per game (5th) while the Mavs are averaging 43.2 rebounds per game (26th). 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 playing lock down defense and they need to focus 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 15.4 points off turnovers per game while at the same time being 2nd in the league in taking care of the ball, committing just 12.5 turnovers themselves. The Celtics also have to focus on taking care of the ball when dribbling and not make careless unforced errors. There will be a lot of excitement around the retirement of KG’s number and so the Celtics must keep their focus on the game and not allow themselves to get distracted by everything around them.
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 have to be the team that plays harder because if they let up, the Mavericks will have the advantage.
All the Hoopla - The Celtics plan to retire KG’s number after this game and so there will be a lot of excitement in the building and many of the former Celtics will be there to honor him. The Celtics can’t let that get to them and take their focus away from playing this game. Hopefully, all the excitement will have the opposite effect and take away from the Mavericks’ focus and give the Celtics a boost to play a little harder.
Revenge and Pride - The Celtics lost a heart breaker against the Mavericks in Dallas in November when Doncic hit a game winner at the buzzer. The Mavericks also swept the season series 2-0 last season. Do the Celtics have enough Celtics Pride to come into this game focused and aggressive to avenge those losses?
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.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are 7-point favorites as hosts to the Mavericks this afternoon. The buzz on the floor comes from two teams with nearly identical records on the outside looking in as dark horse contenders in their respective conferences. Boston will have the bad taste of a Luka Doncic prayer answered back on November 6, too. Off the court, TD Garden will be simmering for the three hours prior to Kevin Garnett’s number retirement ceremony. That could juice the team to close their homestand with a big win and extend their streak to six games or curse them with the jitters before heading out west for a four-game road trip.
Dallas (12-3) comes in just as hot as Boston (13-2) over their last fifteen games. They’re dangerous with Doncic at the helm and have become a sturdy defensive squad anchored by Dorian Finney-Smith (questionable) and Celtics-for-a-minute Dwight Powell. Adding Spencer Dinwiddie to their backcourt with Doncic and Jalen Brunson (questionable) gives them a three-headed monster at point guard that guarantees the Mavericks will always have a reliable engine or two on the floor at all times.
Over this homestand (and a one-game trip to Charlotte), Marcus Smart has quietly and then publicly Friday campaigned not just to regain his spot on the First All-Defense Team, but also Defensive Player of the Year. A parade of the league’s best point guards including Trae Young, Ja Morant, Kyrie Irving, LaMelo Ball, and Cade Cunningham have all been on the losing end against Smart and the Celtics’ stout defense. Doncic is a whole different story and anything is possible, but with KG in the building, expect Smart to make another statement on Sunday.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.