Game Preview: Celtics at Mavericks
Thursday, March 20, 2008
American Airlines Center; 8:30 PM
RADIO: WEEI 850 AM
One stop remains on the Celtics' Texas Triangle test, and the Celtics will drop in on the Mavericks Thursday night to complete their tour of the Lone Star state.
After knocking off the NBA's defending champions on Monday and ending the Houston Rockets' 22-game win streak on Tuesday, the Celtics will take on Dirk Nowitzki and company on TNT in front of a national audience.
"This is definitely a test for us," Paul Pierce said. "You're talking about the top teams in all of basketball. It doesn't get any easier as we go to Dallas and New Orleans."
It might get easier if the Celtics can get Ray Allen back in the lineup. The starting shooting guard missed the last three games with a bruised heel after hurting himself in the first half of Boston's last loss, Friday night at home against the Utah Jazz.
Meanwhile, his backup, Tony Allen, took a nasty fall in the second half of Tuesday's win in Houston and his status for Thursday is unclear.
"My lower back is pretty sore. I just need to get some ice and treatment and a massage and hopefully I will be okay," Allen said after the game. "The win makes it feel a lot better."
With Ray Allen out of the lineup, Garnett and Paul Pierce have been leading the way for Boston. Garnett came up with 22 points and 11 rebounds against the Rockets, while Pierce scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out five assists in the Celtics win over the Spurs.
Meanwhile, Boston's bench has chipped nicely in Texas as well; Sam Cassell scored 17 points against the Spurs while Leon Powe dropped 21 against the Rockets.
The Celtics are 22-4 against the Western Conference, including their win over the Mavs at the Garden on January 31. Playing without Kevin Garnett at the time, the Celtics finished off Dallas when point guard Rajon Rondo stole a rebound from Nowitzki to help seal a 96-90 victory in one of his best games of the year. Rondo finished that night with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
Since then, the Mavericks overhauled their backcourt by trading Devin Harris in a package to New Jersey to land point guard Jason Kidd. But the deal hasn't exactly panned out the way the Mavericks hoped; critics point to the fact that since acquiring Kidd, they've yet to beat a .500 team, going 0-6 against quality opponents since the All-Star Break.
Still, the Mavericks (44-24) are one of the NBA's top home teams (29-5 at American Airlines Center), so getting a win in Dallas would be another feather in the Celtics' cap as they continue their march toward the postseason.
After losing to Utah last Friday, the Celtics have rebounded nicely with three solid defensive games, allowing opponents just 80.7 points per game and under 40% shooting. Rockets guard Tracy McGrady was held to just eight points on Tuesday and came away impressed with what the Celtics are doing on the defensive end.
"I've never seen defense like that," McGrady said. "If they play defense like that night in and night out, then the NBA is in trouble because that defense was at its finest."