Game Preview: Mavericks at Celtics
After easily getting by one of the NBA's worst teams, the Dallas Mavericks are on the verge of their longest winning streak of the season.
The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, have a chance to match theirs.
Monta Ellis is uncertain to be available for the visiting Mavericks, who try to continue their recent success against a Celtics team that could again be without Rajon Rondo on Sunday.
Ellis scored 22 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 20 in Friday's 103-81 win over Utah, helping Dallas (30-21) climb a season-high nine games above .500. The Mavericks held the Jazz to 37.1 percent shooting in the second half and 14 points in the fourth quarter.
"Before you hit the road for an extended period of time, you want to win that last game," Nowitzki, whose team plays three straight and six of seven on the road, told the Mavericks' official website. "I thought we did a good job defensively. … The defense in the second half and the rebounding is what got us the win."
The Mavericks shot a season-best 55.6 percent from 3-point range (10 of 18) and outscored Utah 38-18 in the paint. Their last three wins have come by an average of 17.6 points.
"We got the win, and now we're going to work for this next one," said Ellis, who suffered a hamstring injury Friday. "We're growing every day. We've just got to continue to help one another on defense, share the ball on offense and keep chipping away. Get these last three games before the All-Star break and go from there."
The Mavericks have taken five of six from the Celtics (18-33), with their only loss coming 117-115 in double-overtime in their last visit to Boston on Dec. 12, 2012.
Dallas could be in for another tough battle against a Celtics team that's won three straight after beating Sacramento 99-89 on Friday. Boston, which had just three wins in the 22 games immediately preceding its current run, last posted four consecutive victories Nov. 6-11.
Jared Sullinger led the way Friday with a career-high 31 points and 16 rebounds, helping the Celtics overcome Rondo's absence due to general soreness.
"Tip your hat to Jared Sullinger," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "He came out and dominated us."
Sullinger has averaged 23.8 points and 13.8 boards while shooting 52.0 percent in recording a career-high four straight double-doubles.
"Fair or unfair, that's who we need him to be. And so that's the opportunity in front of him," coach Brad Stevens said. "I'm not saying that you have to get a double-double every day, but he's darn near capable of that."
The Celtics are 14-14 when Sullinger scores at least 12 points compared to 4-17 when he doesn't. They are also 0-2 when he doesn't play.
"How high does he reach? He's not there. That's the good news," Stevens said of Sullinger's ceiling. "He's not there, he can get better. ... I just think the sky's the limit. He's playing at a nice level, there's no question about it."
Rondo averaged 13.5 points, 10.5 assists, 7.5 boards and shot 68.4 percent in the previous two games, just his seventh and eighth contests since returning from a torn ACL. While Stevens said there was no structural damage in Rondo's knee, the four-time All-Star remains questionable for Sunday.
Fellow guard Avery Bradley could also be held out again due to an ankle injury.
Rondo is averaging 14.8 points and 11.8 assists in his last eight meetings against Dallas.
Nowitzki is averaging 28.2 points while shooting 61.1 percent during a six-game stretch. His career average of 26.7 points versus Boston is his highest against any team.