The Dallas Mavericks are surging again but they face an even hotter team Monday night with the Boston Celtics coming to American Airlines Center.
The Mavericks (22-32) are in the mix for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Winning 11 of its last 16 games has given Dallas hope that the season will continue beyond game No. 82.
The Mavericks, hoping to finish off a 3-1 homestand, have shown a surprising amount of fight lately.
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“That’s who we are,” Wesley Matthews said. “We got dealt a tough hand to start the season with injuries, rotational stuff, and trying to find our identity. Once we found that and we started getting healthy again I think we were able to show what we’re capable of being.
“We’re going to keep fighting. That’s one thing about us, we’re going to keep throwing punches and we’re going to keep fighting. We believe.”
The Celtics (35-19) have much bigger fish to fry, with their sights set on defending champion Cleveland atop the East standings. Boston is 9-1 since Jan. 25, including Saturday night’s 112-104 win at West contender Utah.
The Celtics shot a season-high 59.2 percent against the Jazz, who are third in the league in field-goal percentage defense. All-Star Isaiah Thomas scored 29, and Kelly Olynyk added 19 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Boston’s second unit had 50 points — it’s second-highest total this season — despite two starters (Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley) being out. Their absences didn’t hurt the bench production.
“It’s just our next-man-up mentality,” Thomas said. “When we get in the game we don’t even look at the guys that are out because we don’t feel sorry for ourselves, and we know that other teams aren’t going to feel sorry for us.”
Gerald Green was one of the reserve standouts with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. James Young (10 points) helped fill the void when Marcus Smart left the game with a leg cramp.
“The thing that James and Gerald give you right away is that they’re able to space the floor and shoot,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “And that opens the floor for other guys.”
Crowder is expected back against Dallas, where he started his career, after missing two games due to a family matter. Bradley (sore Achilles) didn’t make the road trip.
The Mavericks welcomed back starter Deron Williams from a toe injury in Saturday’s 112-80 rout of Orlando, though Williams is questionable for this one with an illness.
“It’s huge to have Deron back,” second-year swingman Justin Anderson said. “He did a terrific job with the pace. With Yogi (Ferrell) coming off the bench with that bounce and that energy that’s tough for teams to handle.
“I’m just glad that we’re starting to figure it out and there’s no better time to do it. Hopefully we have two great showings in these next two games before (the All-Star break).”