Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics are on a three game winning streak and want to make it four straight with a win against the Dallas Mavericks tonight at the Garden. The Mavericks are on their own four game winning streak and come into Boston as the eighth seed in the Western Conference (which would currently be good for third in the East).
Both teams may be without a starting guard, for the Mavs its Monta Ellis and the Celts, Rajon Rondo. Either way, these squads are playing good basketball and tonight’s contest should make for a good game.
Ellis, who injured his hamstring in the Mavericks win Friday night over the Utah Jazz, has had a great season and if he is out tonight, the Celtics will have to focus their efforts on stopping Dirk Nowitzki and a Dallas offense that is among the league’s best. Assuming Ellis is out, that means more minutes for Devin Harris.
Harris has played limited minutes since returning from injury, but his value as a third or fourth guard on this team cannot be understated. The trio of him, Ellis, and Jose Calderon is exhausting for opposing guards as all three of them play fast and like to push the ball. Harris may get more opportunities in tonight’s game and work off some of the rust that sitting roughly thirty games may create.
For the Celtics, Jeff Green needs to stay aggressive for this team to have any chance at making their win streak a whopping four games. Green will most likely have Shawn Marion on him for most of the game, which won’t make his life easier. A good start for Green usually leads to a good game. If Marion forces Green into some poor shots early, Green can fade away by the time the fourth quarter comes around. If that happens, look for the Celts to feature Jared Sullinger around the hoop against a mediocre Mavericks back line.
The other key for the Celtics will be their defense on future Hall of Fame PF Nowitzki. Brandon Bass and Green will take shots against him, which may not deter Dirk from his mid-range game. This is a great matchup for Nowitzki and assuming there isn’t a blowout around the corner, 35 points isn’t unreasonable for the Celtic killer. Frankly, the Mavericks seem to always win in Boston so the entire team may be a group of Celtic killers.
Prediction: Mavericks 101, Celtics 97