Game Preview: Celtics at Mavericks
BOSTON – Jason Terry will return to his old stomping grounds when the Boston Celtics (36-31) visit the Dallas Mavericks (32-36) at 8 p.m. tonight. The Celtics will be seeking a season sweep of the Mavs, who they beat 117-115 on Dec. 12 in TD Garden.
Terry, who struggled through a 3-of-10 shooting night on Dec. 12, played his last eight seasons in Dallas before joining the Celtics this past offseason. One of those seasons included a run to the NBA title.
Dallas isn’t winning a title this season, and it may not even make the playoffs. The Mavericks currently trail the Los Angeles Lakers by 3.5 games for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Boston, meanwhile is currently the seventh seed in the East. It is battling with several other teams for a top-four seed and possible home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Celtics haven’t been doing themselves any favors this week to achieve those goals. They have faltered in the final seconds of two consecutive games that they easily could have won.
First came Monday’s 105-103 loss to the Heat. Boston led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter of that game but couldn’t hold on for the win. LeBron James hit a jumper with 10.5 seconds remaining left to spoil Boston’s bid to end Miami’s lengthy winning streak.
Next on the list of upsetting losses was Wednesday’s 87-86 loss to the Hornets in New Orleans. The Celtics had that game in the bag after forcing Eric Gordon to miss a running shot off of the glass in the final seconds. However, Boston forgot to box out Anthony Davis and the big man tipped in Gordon’s miss with 0.3 seconds left on the clock. The C’s couldn’t score on their final possession and left New Orleans riding a two-game losing streak.
Those two losses have left a bad taste in the Celtics’ mouth but they have a perfect opportunity to change that taste tonight. Dallas is ripe for the picking after a 17-point loss to the Nets on Wednesday. Dallas’ best player, Dirk Nowitzki, hasn't been looking like himself. He’s averaging just 16.4 points per game in 39 contests this season.
Those two facts tell us that the Celtics have a great opportunity to get back into the win column tonight. No one wants to make that happen more than Terry. He vowed Wednesday night to turn up his offensive aggression beginning tonight in Dallas. If he follows through on that promise, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the fans who watched him play there for the past eight years.
Compete on the Boards
Dallas had a field day on the boards when these teams met in December. It used a balanced attack to grab 50 total rebounds in the game. Seven different Mavericks grabbed at least four boards, including a game-high 11 from Shawn Marion.
Rebounding hasn’t exactly been a strong point for the C’s this season. They rank 29th in the league in that category. They’re also coming off of a game in which they grabbed only 28 total rebounds. The Celts will need a much better effort in that area tonight against a Mavericks team that has several very good rebounders.
Hit the Post
The C’s might be well served if they go into the post tonight with guys like Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Paul Pierce. Dallas’ loss to Brooklyn Wednesday night gave proof that the Mavs aren’t great at defending the post.
Brook Lopez put up 38 points on 68.2 percent shooting against the Mavs in Wednesday’s game. Lopez is a very good player, possibly the best post presence in the game, but he isn’t that good. Boston is more of a jump shooting team than a post team, but it might be a good decision to follow Lopez’s example.
Terry was asked before December’s game against the Mavericks if he was going to be emotional facing off against the team he played for last season. This is how he responded:
“They’ve got the same team name but it’s not the same team. Obviously that was last year. We didn’t have the same team, or we’d probably still be there. It’s a totally different ballclub.”
He completely downplayed the emotional side of that game. For this game, however, he won’t. Terry knows that returning to Dallas will evoke strong emotions. He admitted as much back in December.
“If we go back to Dallas, which we will do in March, then it will be different,” he said. “I think it will be more special when I’m in their building, in their arena. Then we’ll have something to talk about.”
Returning to your old stomping grounds is never easy, particularly if your old fans give you a lot of love and your old franchise gives you a tribute video. Boston’s hope is that he can handle his emotions well and still put forth a strong effort.