Celtics-Mavericks Preview

The Boston Celtics just gave away a great opportunity to keep

pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but they’re still well

on their way to another postseason appearance.

The same can’t be said of the Dallas Mavericks.

Boston will try to avoid a third straight loss Friday night when

the Mavericks welcome back forward Shawn Marion and Celtics guard

Jason Terry, who makes his return to Dallas after a long and

successful run with the team.

Up by as many 13 points in the third quarter Wednesday, the

Celtics (36-31) lost 87-86 at lowly New Orleans on a last-second

tip-in by No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis.

The meltdown didn’t come as a major surprise to coach Doc

Rivers.

“We started dancing around, stopped defending (starting late in

the second quarter). You could see our guys laughing and joking,”

he said. “We don’t learn because we have done this three or four

times this year.”

With 15 games left, the Celtics can’t afford for this to

continue if they’re going to have any chance at a top-four spot in

the East and home-court advantage in the first round of the

playoffs.

Boston is 3 1/2 games behind fourth-place Brooklyn and 1 1/2

back of fifth-place Atlanta. The Nets won 113-96 over Dallas

(32-36) on Wednesday while the Hawks defeated Milwaukee 98-90.

The Celtics are also in contention for a sixth consecutive

Atlantic Division title as they sit 4 1/2 games behind New

York.

While Boston looks to improve its 2-10 road record against the

West, the Mavericks are trying to get back into the win column

after opening a season-high six-game homestand Wednesday.

Advancing to the postseason for a 13th consecutive season is in

doubt as Dallas trails the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers by 3 1/2

games.

The Mavericks, though, could get a boost – especially

defensively and on the boards – with Marion, the team leader with

7.9 rebounds per game, expected to play after missing eight games

with a strained left calf. Dallas went 5-3 with Marion sidelined

and was outrebounded by an average of 12.3 in the losses.

“We definitely could have used some of his defense the last

couple of games,” forward Dirk Nowitzki told the Mavericks’

official website. “Our defense has been terrible (giving up 107 or

more in each of the last three games) and he’s our best defender on

the perimeter. …. So it’s definitely going to be good to see him

back.”

The Mavericks also expect Terry to get a warm welcome after he

signed with Boston in the offseason after spending eight years with

Dallas, including its title run in 2010-11.

“Well, he’ll get a great reception,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

“He’s one of the most beloved players I think in the history of

this franchise because of his personality, his relationship with

the fans and the community and he was a great player.”

Terry had 10 points the first time he faced his former

teammates, a 117-115 double-overtime win Dec. 12. Paul Pierce

scored 34 to help Boston snap a four-game skid in this series.

Nowitzki will face the Celtics for the first time in 2012-13

after missing the previous game with a knee injury. His 26.9

scoring average in 26 games versus Boston is his highest against

any team.