Preview: Boston Celtics vs Dallas Mavericks
The Boston Celtics look to regain momentum against an underwhelming Dallas Mavericks team
The Boston Celtics will look to bounce back after a disappointing outing against the New Orleans Pelicans, as a second straight loss to the Dallas Mavericks will put them in a tough position with the Golden State Wariors due up on friday. The Celtics cannot afford to have three game losing streaks if they want to keep pace with the Toronto Raptors, making this a crucial bounce back game against the Mavericks.
The Celtics ill be holding out hope that Al Horford will finally be able to return. Jae Crowder will not be returning until that Warriors game at the earliest, and there is still all kinds of uncertainty around Horford, who has made it clear that he will not suit up until he is completely recovered without any risk or making things worse. The Celtics are thinking long term with Horford’s injury, and that is the only approach that makes sense with a concussion.
That being said, Horford has been practicing and appears to be on the verge of returning. They may try to hold him out and bring him back at the same time as Crowder, but everyone would love to see him on the court against the Mavericks.
The Mavericks do not appear to present a great challenge to the Celtics, but they have continually struggled to pull away from inferior teams this year. The Mavericks have been disappointing and have dealt with injuries too. Harrison Barnes has been a lone bright spot and, in a way, he is exceeding expectations after a disappointing end to his time with the Warriors.
The Mavericks have won just two games this season, and they have struggled in multiple ways this season. Andrew Bogut has been a solid anchor on the inside, but he has not been enough to give Barnes the help he has needed to be successful, particularly with the inconsistency of Dirk Nowitzky this season.
Barnes will certainly be the toughest assignment for the Celtics, and it is a shame that they do not have Crowder to matchup to him. Once again, Marcus Smart is likely to be tasked with pushing his defensive versatility to the limits as an undersized defender. Barnes has been scoring better than 22 points per game this season, and if the Celtics can manage to eliminate him, they could finally end up with a strong defensive performance.
Bogut will create problems in the interior, but that is likely to be more manifested on the defensive end than on offense. Bogut will not be the one to destroy the game with his interior offense, but he could force the Celtics to lean more on three point shooting with his presence in the paint. The Celtics have a stretch five that can help space the floor, but he will certainly clog things up for a team that always looks to be aggressive driving to the rim.
The Mavericks do have a back court that could catch the Celtics off guard if they take too much for granted. While they should not be too tough for Smart or Avery Bradley to handle, both J.J Barea and Wesley Matthews can present problems. The Celtics may look to overcompensate on Barnes, but they have demonstrated that they do not have the depth to do that and also account for a strong back court.
The Celtics lack the true small forward that would regularly matchup to someone like Barnes, but that should not be enough to destroy the rest of the game. Even if Smart struggles to slow down Barnes, the Mavericks do not have the kind of depth that can fully exploit Boston’s injuries, and the Mavericks will have little to no chance slowing down what has been a deadly offensive duo in Bradley and Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics have been playing offense at a high level this year. Thomas is looking to post career highs in assists and points and Bradley has improved every aspect of his game.
The Celtics now realize how much they need to lean on their starting guards, and they need to be able to do enough to take down this Mavericks team. Their role will be about more than just the points they score. The entire offense has been running through them, and the Celtics need to exploit a defense that has been the worst in the league against three, as the lone team giving up worse than 40 percent form three point range.
The Celtics have been better than anyone could have expected, shooting the three ball at a rate of 36.1 percent, and there is no reason that Thomas should not be able to get the ball moving, creating the open looks that they have been able to take advantage of across the board.
On defense, the Celtics know that Barnes will have a size matchup that he will look to exploit, and they may simply have to accept whatever Bogut is able to do. They will try and limit him to the point where he does not destroy the game, and if they can keep him off the offensive glass, that alone could be enough.
Dallas ranks 22nd with just 9.4 offensive rebounds per game. They should expect that number to be better against the Celtics, but it should not be too much of a game changer. The Celtics have slowly been getting a bit better on the boards, but it will continue to be the easiest way for them to throw games away with Horford and Crowder sidelined.
The Celtics have been exploited on the inside, and their perimeter defense has not had the same kind of impact as last season. They have not generated turnovers the at the same rate as last season, and they have greatly missed that impact on the game. The Mavericks have done a good job of limiting their turnovers this season, making is look like the Celtics will have to win this one on the offensive end.
Ideally, the Celtics will be disruptive enough to run away from the Mavericks, but they have reached a point where offense is going to be the best way for them to win games until they are healthy, and will definitely be the case against the Mavericks.
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