Boston Celtics at Dallas Mavericks Preview
The Boston Celtics (the third seed in the East) and the Dallas Mavericks (the third seed in the West) will clash tonight for a nationally televised contest on ESPN. The Mavs are playing their second full game without Luka Doncic, who left Dallas’ game against the Heat after just over a minute of game action with a sprained right ankle. Doncic will miss at least two weeks due to the injury, therefore, the pressure is on the Mav’s other star, Kristaps Prozingis to produce at a high level. We’ll see how he fairs tonight against the quick and switch-happy wings on the Celtics.
On the Boston side, the men in green are hoping Marcus Smart, who is listed as day-to-day with an eye infection will be ready to go for tonight’s game. Smart missed the team’s last game against the Sixers and his defense and playmaking were sorely missed. The Celtics have dealt with a slew of injuries so far to their key players, but Brad Steven’s has been able to count on his reserves to step up in crucial moments.
Time: 9:30 PM ET
Arena: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
Celtics: Marcus Smart (Q), Robert Williams (O)
Mavericks: Luka Doncic (O)
Boston Celtics Starting Lineup
The Boston Celtics have been off since Thursday [checks NBA schedule again] yep, Thursday. That’s a really long break. The last time this team was in action was a 115-109 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Joel Embiid felt the heat coming from Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, who criticized the big man for a lack of consistency. Not great news for the Celtics, who had the unfortunate task of seeing Embiid immediately after being chastised by the Hall of Famers. Embiid recorded a season-high 38 points and 13 rebounds and decimated the Celtics defensive scheme.
Kemba Walker led the way for Boston with 29 points, but he struggled shooting the ball: he connected on 8-for-21 shots from the field. Enes Kanter dropped a season-high 20 points on 76.9 percent shooting and Gordon Hayward continued his excellent all-around play with 19 points, four rebounds, and five assists.
The Celtics leaned heavily into a defensive strategy that has worked time-and-time again versus Embiid: send a second defender to double after a second dribble and force him to make the right read. The problem for Philly’s big man in the past has been inaccuracies or delays on his passes out of double teams. Not against the Celtics on Thursday. Embiid made the right read over and over again; in the same vein, he demolished individual defenders all the same.
Which highlights a couple of problems for the Celtics: First, they don’t have a big man that will simultaneously provide strong low post defense and fit into the switch-heavy scheme Brad Stevens implements. Second, their best lineup might consist of Walker, Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Hayward. The problem? That lineup is begging to get ripped to shreds on the interior by the likes of the Bucks, Raptors, and especially the Sixers.
I’m all for a wing-heavy roster, with interchangeable players that can all create plays and shoot. But a big man that can defend in the pick-and-roll along and in the paint will be more valuable once the playoffs roll around.
Tonight’s game shouldn’t be taken lightly just because Doncic is out, but Boston should be confident.
Dallas Mavericks Starting Lineup
The Mavs were led by Porzingis in their most recent outing, 120-116 win against the Bucks on Monday night. The win snapped the Bucks 18-game winning streak and gave the Mavs some life after the disappointing news that Doncic is set to miss a couple of weeks with his ankle injury.
The Mavericks shot 16-for-41 on 3-pointers, including four 3s each by Seth Curry and Porzingis. The Bucks shot only 11-for-41 on their 3s.
Curry and Porzingis led the way in scoring for Dallas with 26 apiece. KP also added 12 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks; and Curry filled up the boxscore with five boards and four assists of his own. Jalen Brunson who is starting in place of Luka had a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists.
Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle made a point to give the Bucks credit for their winning streak:
“I’ve been in this league a long time and an 18-game winning streak is a spectacular demonstration of how good a team is,” coach Carlisle said.
Dallas barely lost the game in which Doncic hurt his ankle, 122-118 to the Miami Heat, and just beat possibly the best team in the league in the Milwaukee Bucks. This team is good, and they haven’t even scratched the surface. That lies with Porzingis. He is the key to the Mavericks reaching the tier right above them. That and one more piece to help contend with bigger opposing wings.
The Celtics have the perfect recipe for a Doncic-less Mavs team: big wings who can guard multiple positions. A Brunson/Porzingis pick-and-roll combo can work against certain teams. However, the Celtics have the right personnel to throw a wrench in those offensive sets.
Key Player Matchups
Kristaps Porzingis vs. Jayson Tatum
Let’s give Porzingis a break. He missed a lot of game action after he tore his ACL, he’s playing in an unfamiliar system, and he’s trying to acclimate himself to Luka–who ranks third in touches per game (92.2) and time of possession (8.6 seconds). In other words, KP is trying to fit into Luka’s world, and he should be getting more credit. Despite his struggles–he’s shooting 35.2 percent on his catch-and-shoot field goals and is posting an effective field goal of 47.8 percent on those attempts–he’s buying into his role. His shot will come around, and he’ll get more comfortable the further into the season we go. Tatum will see plenty of time trying to guard Porzingis, and that might be a problem for Dallas’ big man. KP struggles against rangier wing defenders and Tatum has been one of the better defensive wings in the league. For forwards who’ve played at least, 20 games and average at least 20 minutes per game Tatum ranks fifth in defensive rating (100.2) and fourth in defensive win shares (0.175), according to NBA Advanced Stats.
Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Jaylen Brown
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been fantastic. I’m not referring to any kind of eye-popping production I just mean for what the Mavs need from him, he’s delivered. THJ is a great fit next to Doncic because he doesn’t need the ball in his hand, and can just focus on catching and shooting. His matchup, Brown is one of the better defenders at his position, who is also a productive offensive player. Without Luka drawing so much defensive attention, Brown can be a tad more aggressive when he helps off his man because there isn’t another guard on the Mavs who can find open shooters like Doncic.
Tonight’s game features some productive players that won’t break the bank. For Boston, there are four players who could post fantasy points upwards of 30. The two with the highest projections are Tatum and Walker. Walker is available for a salary of $7.6k on FanDuel with fantasy projections for 39.3 and Tatum is close in salary and production. The 6-foot-8 forward is going for a salary of $7.5k with projections set for 36.6.
For Dallas, Porzingis is your only “safe bet” to produce at a high clip tonight. KP can be had for $8.9k on FanDuel with his projections set for 37.9. Luka’s replacement, Brunson is available for $6k with projections set for 22.5.
Bet on Matchup
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