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Boston Celtics (33-10) at Dallas Mavericks (24-18) Game #44 1/22/24

The Celtics continue their road trip as they take on the Mavericks in Dallas on the second night of back to back games.

Boston Celtics v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics come into Dallas to take on the Mavericks after playing the Rockets the night before. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams. They will play a second time in Boston on March 1. The Celtics were 2-0 last season. They are 45-39 overall all time and 19-23 in games played in Dallas. This is the second game of a 3 game road trip for the Celtics.

The Celtics attempt 42.6 three pointers per game, which is first in the league. The Mavericks attempt 41.1 three pointers per game, which is second in the league. The Celtics are a little more efficient than the Mavericks, shooting 38.0% (7th) to 36.8 (15th) for the Mavericks. We can expect a lot of 3 pointers flying in this game from both teams. Hopefully the Celtics will be shooting well in this game as at times they have struggled to hit their shots.

The Celtics remain first in the East, 3.5 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 4 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 6.5 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland, 7 games ahead of 5th place New York, and 9 games ahead of 6th place Miami. The Celtics are 13-9 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 10-4 against Western Conference opponents and they are coming off a win in their last game.

The Mavericks are 6th in the West and currently sit in the final guaranteed playoff spot. They are half a game behind 5th place New Orleans and 6 games behind first place Minnesota. They are half a game ahead of 7th place Sacramento and 8th place Portland in the play in spots. They are 3.5 games ahead of 11th place Houston and falling out of the playoff picture completely.

The Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 3 game road trip. They are playing on the second night of back to back games and played in Houston on Sunday. The Celtics are 5-2 on the second night of back to back games and they are 1-1 when the games are both on the road. They will complete the trip in Miami on Thursday. They then return home for a 7 game home stand against the Clippers, Pelicans, Pacers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Hawks, and Wizards.

The Mavericks’ last game was a loss to the Lakers on Wednesday. Their game against the Warriors was postponed and so they have had 4 days off since they last played. This is the first of a 2 game home stand for them. They will host the Suns on Wednesday and then play at Atlanta on Friday before hosting Sacramento and Orlando back to back at home.

Jrue Holiday and Al Horford should be back for this game after missing Sunday’s game in Houston. Kristaps Porzingis is out due to right knee inflammation. I’m guessing that Horford will get the start. For the Mavericks, Seth Curry is questionable after spraining his ankle in practice on Sunday. Dante Exum is doubtful with a plantar fascia sprain. He practiced Sunday but both Exum and Curry are listed as a game time decision.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Delano Banton
Oshae Brissett
Sam Hauser
Luke Kornet
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Lamar Stevens
Jordan Walsh

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Drew Peterson
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
Kristaps Porzingis (knee) out

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Mavericks Starters

Rockets Reserves
Josh Green
Jaden Hardy
Richaun Holmes
Maxi Kleber
Markieff Morris
Dwight Powell
Oliver-Maxence Prosper
Grant Williams

Two-Way Players
Greg Brown III
AJ Lawson
Brandon Williams

Injuries/Out
Seth Curry (ankle) questionable
Dante Exum (heel) doubtful

Head Coach
Jason Kidd

Key Matchups

Jrue Holiday vs Luka Doncic
Doncic is averaging 33.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He is shooting 48.5% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc. He is very tough to defend as he can shoot from pretty much anywhere on the court. If the Celtics can slow him down, it would go a long way toward getting a win.

Derrick White vs Kyrie Irving
Irving is averaging 25.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 47.3% from the field and 42.0% from beyond the arc. Irving has a grudge against the Celtics for some reason as was very evident after he stomped on Lucky after a game in Boston. He will do his best to beat his former team and the Celtics need to do their best to keep him from doing so.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Tim Hardaway, Jr
Hardaway is averaging 18.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. He is shooting 41.8% from the field and 36.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics are going to need a big game from Jaylen Brown on both ends of the court.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the number one key to winning games. The Mavs are averaging 118.5 points per game (7th) while the Celtics average 120.4 points per game (4th). The Mavs are 19th with a defensive rating of 116.5 while the Celtics are 2nd with a defensive rating of 110.6. When the Celtics struggle on offense, they have to be able so stop the other team from scoring. 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 47.3 rebounds per game (1st) while the Mavs are averaging 41.9 rebounds per game (24th). 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 17.3 points off turnovers per game while at the same time being 1st in the league in taking care of the ball, committing just 12.2 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 have to be the team that plays harder because if they let up, the Mavericks will have the advantage. They especially need to play harder in the 3rd quarter as in recent games, they have been getting outplayed in that frame.

X-Factors
Road Fatigue - The Celtics are playing their 2nd straight game on the road and on the second night of back to back games with travel in between. 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 4 days off.

Former Celtics - It always seems like former Celtics play extra hard against their old team and they seem to have good games against them. The Mavericks have not one, but two former Celtics and one of those has a particular dislike for his former team. Kyrie Irving would very much love to bury the Celtics and I’m sure Grant Williams feels he wasn’t given a fair shake as his playing time diminished at the end of his time in Boston. Limiting those two players especially will be important for the Celtics to get a win.

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.

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