Watch It! - Mavericks at Celtics

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

Home Translation

The Celtics return home with a wave of momentum behind them. The question now is, can they maintain it at TD Garden?

Boston has won five of its past six games and its last three overall. Three of those five wins, including back-to-back victories in Oklahoma City and Houston, were attained on the road, where the C’s now stand at 3-1 on the season. They are only 3-3 at home thus far.

The NBA’s top teams protect their home court. Boston has not done that very well this season. The hope is that the momentum it is riding, which was built mostly on the road, will now carry it through some wins at home as well.

Someone’s Gotta Lose

Neither the Celtics nor the Mavericks have lost during the past week. Boston has won three in a row, while Dallas has won its last four games.

The C’s last fell on Nov. 11 to the Pacers, by a score of 102-91. Since then, they have downed Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Houston. Those teams entered Wednesday with a combined 18-17 record.

Dallas hasn’t dropped a game since Nov. 10, when New Orleans downed the Mavs 120-105 for its first win of the season. The Mavs have since rattled off wins against the Clippers, the Lakers, the Rockets and the 76ers. That win over the Clippers was a resume builder, but those four opponents have combined to go only 12-31 this season.

Regardless of which team’s streak is more impressive, one of them is going to end tonight. Only one team will walk out of TD Garden with its winning streak intact.

Defensive Powerhouses

A preseason poll of NBA coaches probably wouldn’t have predicted that the C’s and the Mavs would both be top-10 defenses after the first three weeks of the season. However, that’s exactly where these two teams stand heading into tonight’s action.

Boston has been stellar at the defensive end. It ranks third in the league in defensive efficiency with a mark of 94.2. Opponents are shooting just 42.2 percent from the field against Boston, which is the fourth-best mark in the league.

Dallas isn’t too far behind in either category. It enters tonight’s game ranked eighth in the league in both defensive efficiency (98.4) and opponent field goal percentage (42.6). Over its last four games, the Mavs have actually ranked fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, one spot ahead of the C’s.

It’s probably safe to assume that defense will dominate this game. However, that does not necessarily mean this will be a low-scoring contest. Both of these teams play with a lot of pace so we should still see a lot of points put on the board.

Post vs. Speed

Tonight’s point guard matchup is quote intriguing. Isaiah Thomas and Deron Williams bring completely different styles of play to the table.

Thomas’ game is all about speed and quickness. At just 5-foot-9, he needs to shake free of his defenders to get his shot off. He does so with a myriad of moves that help him fire off jumpers and get to the basket.

Williams, meanwhile, is known much more for his size. At 6-foot-3 and more than 200 pounds, he is one of the stronger point guards in the league. He mostly operates out of pick-and-rolls but is fully capable of posting up smaller guards like Thomas.

Keep an eye on this matchup. It could go either way, but the numbers say Thomas’ style will win out.

Guard Advantage

On most nights, the Celtics are going to have an advantage on the perimeter. Tonight is no exception.

Boston’s guard rotation has been top-notch this season. The quartet of Thomas, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner has been fantastic in three major areas of the game: scoring, playmaking and defense.

The Mavs have much more star power at their guard spots but they haven’t been performing to the level of Boston’s perimeter players. Williams, a three-time All-Star, is shooting only 41.8 percent from the field this season. His backcourt partner, Matthews, who is coming off of a torn Achilles’ tendon, is shooting only 34.1 percent. Devin Harris (38.1 percent) and Barea (35.6 percent) have also struggled mightily with their respective shots.

Boston’s group of guards is has shown this season that it is younger, healthier, more efficient and more diverse than Dallas’. It should have a major advantage tonight.


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