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

The Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks as they look to get back to .500 on the season.

The Celtics continue their home stand as they host the Dallas Mavericks for the second and final game between them this season. The Mavericks won the first game 110-107 on February 23 in Dallas. Luka Doncic hit a three with 0.1 second left to give them the 3 point win. They were without Porzingis in that game and the Celtics were without Marcus Smart.

The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season vs the Mavericks. The Celtics are 45-36 all time against the Mavs and they are 25-14 all time in Boston. The Celtics have won 4 their last 4 games against the Mavericks in Boston. Dallas is 15-8 in their last 23 games while the Celtics are 13-10 in their last 23 games. The Mavericks are playing in the 3rd game of a 5 game road trip while the Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 7 game home stand.

The Celtics are in 7th place in the East but things are so tight that one win or loss can make a difference in the standings. The Celtics are tied with the 6th place Atlanta and the 8th place Heat. They are 1 game behind New York (5) and 1.5 games behind 4th place Charlotte. They are 1 game ahead of 9th place Indiana. The Celtics are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 13-8 at home. They are 7-11 vs Western teams.

The Mavericks are 7th in the West. They are 3.5 games behind the 6th place Trail Blazers. They are half a game ahead of the 8th place Spurs and 1.5 games ahead of 9th place Memphis. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 13-11 on the road. Their road record is actually better than their home record, which is 11-10. They are 9-7 vs Eastern teams.

Jaylen Brown missed Monday’s game and is listed as questionable for this game. I’m hoping he can play so it is wishful thinking that I’ve included him in with the starters. It’s hard to say who will actually start, however. Brad may opt to start Evan Fourier at the 3 and move Jaylen Brown to the 2 and move Marcus Smart back to his “stretch 6” role. Or, if Jaylen Brown is out again, Grant Williams may once again get the start.

Romeo Langford has not played as yet this season. After beginning the season on the injury list after wrist surgery, he has been out the past few weeks with covid. He has been cleared for full training and is listed as questionable for this game. Even if he does play, it won’t be much until he gets back in game shape. Semi Ojeleye is out with a hip injury and Tristan Thompson remains out due to health and safety protocols.

For the Mavericks, Willie Cauley-Stein is listed as out due to health and safety protocols and will miss his 7th straight game. Tyrell Terry is listed as questionable for personal reasons. He has been out since late January. JJ Redick came to the Mavs in a deadline trade and is listed as questionable with a heel injury.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Payton Pritchard
Tremont Waters
Tacko Fall
Luke Kornet
Carsen Edwards
Aaron Nesmith
Grant Williams
Moritz Wagner
Evan Fournier

Injuries
Romeo Langford (covid) questionable
Semi Ojeleye (hip) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Jaylen Brown (hip) questionable

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Mavericks Starters

Mavericks Reserves
Tyler Bey
Jalen Brunson
Trey Burke
Josh Green
Tim Hardaway, Jr
Nate Hinton
Boban Marjanovic
Nicolo Melli
Dwight Powell
Tyrell Terry

Injuries
Willie Cauley-Stein (covid) out
JJ Redick (heel) questionable
Tyrell Terry (personal) questionable

Head Coach
Rick Carlisle

Key Matchups

Kemba Walker vs Luka Doncic
Doncic is averaging 28.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.1 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 48.3% from the field and 36.8% from beyond the arc. He is the Mavericks’ best player and if the Celtics can slow him down, it will go a long way toward getting a win. Doncic had 31 points, including the game winning 3 pointer, to go with 10 rebounds and 8 assists in the first game between these two teams. The Celtics need a solid effort from Kemba in this game if they hope to win.

Robert Williams vs Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis is averaging 20.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.6 blocks. Porzingis missed the first game between these two teams. He is shooting 48.1% from the field and 36.5% from beyond the arc. Robert will need to stay with him both inside and on the perimeter as he can score from both.

Honorable Mention
Marcus Smart vs Josh Richardson
Richardson is averaging 12.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals. He is shooting 43.5% from the field and 31.6% from beyond the arc. He had 16 points and 4 rebounds in his first game against the Celtics this season. He is a good defender and will try to make it more difficult for the Celtics to score.

Keys to the Game
Defense – Defense is always the number one key to winning games. The Mavs are averaging 112.9 points per game while the Celtics average 112.3 points per game. The Celtics have dropped to 21st in the league in defensive rating at 112.2. The Mavs are 23rd in defensive rating at 112.5. The Celtics simply must get back to playing tough individual and team defense. It takes effort to defend well and the Celtics have to get back to showing effort and energy on that end of the court if they want to get back to winning.

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 43.2 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 – The Celtics have to move the ball and they have to move without the ball to get open shots. When the Celtics get fewer than 20 assists, they usually end up with a loss. They have to move the ball and play as a team. Over-dribbling and playing hero ball usually lead to a loss but when they move the ball and play team ball, they are tough to beat.

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. 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. There are times in games that they play exceptionally well but then they stop doing what makes them successful and stop scoring. They have to give a consistent effort from the tip to the final buzzer.

Play with Energy and Focus – Too often the Celtics look like they are playing in a mud pit. They just don’t move and play with energy. Also, they haven’t been as focused as they should be. They turn the ball over and miss free throws and miss wide open shots. When they are focused they shoot the lights out and just look like a different team. They have to decide if they want to be win and then go out and play like it.

X-Factors
At Home With Fans – The Celtics are at home and they finally have fans in the building. The fans didn’t seem to motivate them very much against the Pelicans except for a short stretch in the 4th quarter. It’s not the full Garden, but the fans that are there are cheering hard for their team and the Celtics need to use the fans and their cheers to motivate them to give that extra effort and to stay focused on the game.

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.

Celtics Blog https://www.celticsblog.com/2021/3/31/22359505/dallas-mavericks-at-boston-celtics-game-48-3-31-21