The Celtics look to get back on track after a very embarrassing loss to the OKC Thunder on Tuesday night. This is the 3rd game of a 4 game Western road trip. The Celtics lost the first 2 game on the trip and now face MVP candidate Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, who have won their last 7 games.
The Celtics are still first in the East, leading the second place Bucks by 1 game. They also lead the 3rd place Nets by 1 after their 12 game win streak was broken by the Bulls on Wednesday. They are 11-7 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 11-4 against Western Conference opponents. They lost their first 2 games on this road trip after winning the final 4 games of their home stand before heading out on the road.
The Mavericks are 4th in the West, just 2.5 games behind first place Denver and 2 games ahead of 7th place Portland, and play in position. They are 15-5 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. This is the 1st of 2 home games after a 2 game road trip. They are 6-10 against Eastern Conference opponents.
The Mavericks’ 7 game win streak is impressive, but it hasn’t been against the top teams. During their win streak, they have beat the last place Rockets 3 times, the 14th place Spurs, the 13th place Lakers, the 11th place Timberwolves and, the 8th place Knicks, who are the only team in that group with a winning record, at 20-18.
The Celtics are 43-40 overall all time against the Mavericks and 17-24 in games played in Dallas. The Celtics were 0-2 against Dallas last season, losing at home and on the road. This is the second of 2 games this season. The Celtics won the first game 125-112 in Boston on November 23. That win snapped a 4 game losing streak against Dallas. The Celtics are 8-5 over the last 13 games but Dallas has won 3 of the last 4 games between them.
This game is being billed as a duel between two of the NBA’s top scorers and MVP candidates in Boston forward Jayson Tatum and Dallas guard Luka Doncic. Tatum is averaging 30.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, and Doncic is averaging an NBA-best 34.3 points to go with 8.8 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 1.7 steals per contest. Jayson has been struggling of late, especially on 3 pointers while Luka has been playing very well.
Robert Williams missed Tuesday’s game against OKC but is not on the injury list for this game and so should be good to go. Danilo Gallinari remains out as he rehabs his torn ACL. For the Mavericks, Dorian Finney-Smith is out with a hip injury, Josh Green is out with an elbow injury and Maxi Kleber is out with a hamstring injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Mavericks Starters
Two Way Players
McKinley Wright IV
Maxi Kleber (hamstring) out
Josh Green (elbow) out
Dorian Finney-Smith (hip) out
Marcus Smart vs Luka Doncic
Doncic is averaging 34.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is shooting 50.7% from the field and 35.9% from beyond the arc. In the November game, Doncic finished with 42 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. The Celtics must make slowing Doncic down a priority.
Al Horford vs Christian Wood
Wood is averaging 17.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 54.4% from the field and 40.3% from beyond the arc. In November’s game, he finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 2 assists off the bench. The Celtics need to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Derrick White vs Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie is averaging 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He is shooting 46.0% from the field and 40.9% from beyond the arc. In the November game, Dinwiddie finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. Hopefully the Celtics play better defense in this game than they did against both Denver and OKC or they will be facing another loss.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the number one key to winning games. The Mavs are averaging 112.6 points per game (19th) while the Celtics average 118.6 points per game (1st). The Mavs are 17th with a defensive rating of 115.3 while the Celtics are 9th with a defensive rating of 111.5. 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 Sunday vs the Nuggets or on Tuesday vs the Thunder. 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 43.7 rebounds per game (13th) 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 17.9 points off turnovers per game while at the same time being 1st in the league in taking care of the ball, committing just 12.3 turnovers themselves. The Celtics also have to focus on taking care of the ball when dribbling and not make careless unforced errors. They have to focus on playing good team basketball.
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 Thunder to be more aggressive and play harder than them on Tuesday 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.
Road Fatigue - The Celtics are playing their 3rd straight game on the road. They need to keep their focus on playing the right way and not let the distractions of the road take away that focus. With the travel and playing in different time zones and arenas, 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 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.