Game Preview: Mavericks at Celtics

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – One thing the Boston Celtics (11-9) have yet to do this season is put together a lengthy winning streak. They’re hoping that a victory at 8 p.m. tonight in TD Garden over the Dallas Mavericks (11-10) will send them on their way toward changing that fact.

The C’s are two games over the .500 mark but haven’t won more than three consecutive games at any point this season. They do, however, play only one team in their next seven games that has more wins than they do. Boston wants to put together a streak, and it’s looking to do so immediately.

“Right now we’re just concerned about us and stringing together some games,” Jason Terry said on Tuesday. “We’ve won one, lost one, won one. We’ve got to put together three, four, five games in a row, so that’s where our focus is right now.”

As Terry went on to say, his former team, the Dallas Mavericks, just happens to be the next opponent on Boston’s schedule. Terry refuses to blow this game’s importance out of proportion. He understands this is his former team, but all he and his teammates are concerned about is grabbing a second consecutive win.

Notching that victory won’t be a simple task against a Mavs team that has won four of its past five games. None of those victories came against teams that currently have a winning record, but they were wins nonetheless.

Dallas nearly has the same record as Boston despite the fact that it has played the entire season without former MVP Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki continues to recover from surgery that was performed on his right knee on Oct. 20 and is not expected to be back in the lineup until the calendar turns over.

In the meantime, the Mavs will continue to lean on their new shooting guard, O.J. Mayo. Mayo is playing like an All-Star for the first time in his career with averages of 20.8 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game. All of those numbers are career highs and his scoring average is more than eight points higher than it was last season in Memphis.

Dirk, KG

Kevin Garnett won't need to worry about defending Dirk Nowitzki tonight.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Outside of Mayo, the Celtics will also need to deal with several other formidable Mavs players. Chris Kaman is starting at center and is putting together a solid season with 14.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG. Vince Carter is also playing well off of the bench, and Derek Fisher has quietly taken over the starting point guard duties during Dallas’ recent stretch of success.

Those players are all having solid seasons, but the real story of this game is who won’t be playing for Dallas. Kevin Garnett and the rest of the C’s won’t be forced to deal with Nowitzki’s unique skill set, and Dallas’ top defender, Shawn Marion, may also miss the game with a strained right groin. He is listed as day-to-day.

Those factors would lead many to believe that the Celtics have a great opportunity to win their second straight game tonight. Doing so would keep them on the road toward that coveted long-term winning streak.

Mayo is a Sniper

Mayo is having a breakout season because he has become one of the elite shooters in the NBA. He is taking a lot of shots from long distance, and he’s making the majority of them.

“O.J. Mayo is playing off the charts,” said Doc Rivers. “He’s shooting above 50 (percent) from the 3. What’s impressive with him, they’re running a lot of isos and he’s guarded taking 3s. That’s scary when you say a guy is guarded taking 3s and he’s making over 50 percent of them.”

Not only 50 percent of them, but well above 50 percent of them. Mayo makes an NBA-best 53 percent of his shots from downtown. Terry and Courtney Lee, who are likely to defend Mayo tonight, must challenge his perimeter shots as best they can.

Just Another Game

The Mavericks allowed Terry to leave and join the Celtics this summer. Then they signed O.J. Mayo to be his replacement. Now those players will face off against each other for the first time since those moves took place.

It’s human nature for both of them to have a little extra motivation for this game. What Rivers doesn’t want, at least in Terry’s case, is for the guard to look at this game differently than any other game.

“What you don’t want to make it is a bigger-than-life competition,” said Rivers. “Even [Monday] night, again on football, I thought the difference in that game was the Patriots came to play and the other team thought it was the biggest game of their franchise.”

The key for Terry and Mayo will be to approach this game like the Patriots did Monday night and avoid the mindset that the Houston Texans took into that game.

Seeing Green

Jeff Green has been fantastic of late. He has averaged 16.0 PPG on 54.5 percent shooting over his past five games.

This Celtics team is different when Green is playing with aggression. He gives Boston a scoring boost off of the bench and when he has things clicking, opponents have a very difficult time defending the C’s.

Marion is the only guy on Dallas’ roster who possesses the length and athleticism to match up with Green. If Marion doesn’t play tonight, Green should be able to continue his stretch of great play.