Watch It! – Mavericks at Celtics

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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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.

Waiting Game Turned Playing Game

Al Horford and the Celtics have been playing the waiting game for more than two weeks in regard to Horford’s possible return to the lineup from a concussion. Will that waiting game turn into a playing game tonight?

It doesn’t sound like it.

Horford is listed as doubtful for this contest. He fully participated in Tuesday’s practice, but it was a light practice with minimal contact, according to Brad Stevens. Horford told reporters after practice that he’s “not where I want to be right now,” indicating that the C’s will almost certainly be without him tonight for the eighth consecutive game.

Not Your Typical Mavs

The Dallas Mavericks have missed the Playoffs only once during the last 16 seasons. It’s sure looking like they will double that total this season season.

These Mavericks aren’t your typical Mavericks. They head into tonight’s game with a woeful 2-7 record, matching the New Orleans Pelicans for the worst win total in the Western Conference.

It is likely that Dirk Nowitzki, who is nursing a strained right Achilles, will play tonight for the first time since Nov. 4. However, the players who are slated to start around him (Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut), with the exception of Barnes, are having very underwhelming campaigns thus far.

3-Point Happy

There is no doubt that Boston is highly reliant upon the long ball at the offensive end of the court. Monday night was the most recent example of that fact.

The C’s fired up a whopping 41 3-pointers during Monday’s loss in New Orleans, making 12. The team is averaging 29.9 3-point attempts per game this season, which ranks seventh in the NBA. Fortunately for Boston, it has shot the ball well from long range this season, having converted on 36.1 percent of its attempts.

Dallas, likewise, is a heavy 3-point shooting team. The Mavs rank fourth in the league in 3-point attempts per game with an average of 30.9. However, Dallas has not shot the three-ball well, as it has only made 30.2 percent of its 3s this season. That percentage ranks third-to-last in the league.

One thing we know heading into this game is that both teams will be firing from downtown on a regular basis. The numbers say that Boston should hold the edge in that category.

Take Care of Business

New Orleans downed the C’s Monday night, and that simply wasn’t supposed to happen. The Pelicans entered that game with only one win on the season, while the Celtics are regarded as one of the more talented teams in the league.

Tonight, Boston will be playing under similar circumstances. Dallas enters action with only two wins to its name and the fifth-worst scoring differential in the league.

Boston may be without two of its key players in Horford and Jae Crowder, but it should still win this game. Let’s hope the result is much different than it was Monday night, when it played under similar circumstances.

Win at the Free Throw Line

It has been a rare occurrence this season that the Celtics have won the battle at the free-throw line. The numbers say tonight could be an exception to that trend.

Boston ranks 17th in the league with an average of 23.7 free throw attempts per game. That’s not great, but Dallas is even worse – much worse. The Mavericks rank dead last in the league in getting to the free-throw line, and by a large margin, with an average of 17.6 attempts per game.

Isaiah Thomas, who attempts an average of nearly 10 free throws a night, paces the C’s at the free-throw line every time the team takes the court. Dallas, on the other hand, doesn’t have many players who put the ball on the floor to attack the basket and draw fouls. The combination of those two facts should lead to the C’s having an advantage in this key category during tonight’s game.