Watch It! - Mavericks at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks meet at 6 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
Dirk Hasn’t Slowed Down
Dirk Nowitzki is quietly having yet another fantastic season with the Dallas Mavericks. He isn’t just playing well. He’s playing great. Brad Stevens said on Saturday that Nowitzki has "found the fountain of youth."
Nowitzki continues to shine for the Mavericks and heads into Sunday’s game ranked 12th in the league in scoring with an average of 21.09 points per game. The future Hall of Famer isn’t just scoring, either. He’s doing it with incredible efficiency. Nowitzki, who is shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range, could wind up having the best shooting season of his career.
You might not be hearing a lot about Nowitzki this season but that’s not due to a drop in his level of play. He is, as they say, flying under the radar.
Does Rondo or Bradley Play?
The Celtics have been without their starting backcourt since Wednesday night’s win in Philadelphia. Rajon Rondo has since been resting his sore right knee, and Avery Bradley has been resting his sore right ankle. Both were questionable for Saturday’s practice and their status remains uncertain for tonight’s game.
Sometimes the term “questionable” isn’t very accurate regarding a player’s availability, but it truly seems as if both Rondo and Bradley are a coin flip as to whether they will play against Dallas. It’s conceivable that the Celtics could be faced with any of the following three scenarios: having one of the two players, having both players, or having neither of the two players.
There’s no doubt that the Celtics would be a much better team if either Rondo or Bradley are on the court. Rondo may be the best passer in the world, and Bradley is Boston’s top shooter. The offense would be in much better shape if they’re out there. If they aren’t, Boston may struggle to score the ball.
Mavs Making a Run
Don’t look now, but the Mavericks are making a little run in the Western Conference. Dallas has won four in a row and five of its last six to climb nine games over the .500 mark at 30-21.
You’ve probably heard a lot about teams like the Thunder, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Clippers this season, and rightfully so. Those teams are all legitimate title contenders. However, Dallas isn’t far behind them. The Mavs currently sit just four games out of the fourth seed in the stacked Western Conference.
Defending the 3
One thing you need to do when you have a superstar is surround him with shooters. Dallas has certainly done that this season.
The Mavericks, led by Nowitzki’s 40.9 percent clip from long range, rank sixth in the league in 3-point shooting percentage this season. They have his 37.7 percent of their attempts from long range through 51 games. To put that into perspective, the Celtics do not have a single player on their team who is shooting better than 37.0 percent from 3-point range (minimum of 35 attempts) this season.
Jose Calderon signed with Dallas this past offseason and he is shooting 44.4 percent from long range during his first season with the team. Shawn Marion (36.9 percent), Vince Carter (36.0 percent) and Monta Ellis (31.3 percent) have also provided strong perimeter shooting.
Boston will need to send double-teams and traps at Nowitzki tonight but the C’s must also be cognizant of Dallas’ other shooters on the floor. The Mavericks have the potential to light it up from downtown.
Potential Battle: Bradley vs. Ellis
Fans are going to flood into TD Garden this evening to see Nowitzki, and rightfully so. He’s a surefire future Hall of Famer who can put on a show with his unstoppable offense.
Luckily for the TD Garden faithful, Nowitzki may not be the only course on the menu. There may also be a great matchup that features one of the league’s top defenders, Bradley, and one of its most electric guards, Ellis.
Bradley was chosen as an NBA All-Defensive Second Team defender last season. He’s regarded as one of the best, if not the best, individual defenders in the game right now. Ellis, meanwhile, can fill it up on offense, plain and simple. He may not be the world’s best shooter but he figures out ways to score with his speed and athleticism.
There is the potential that this matchup won't become a reality. Both players are questionable, as Bradley is nursing a sore ankle and Ellis tweaked his hamstring on Friday. However, if both players are on the court, it will be a heck of a show to watch them go at it all night long.