The Dallas Mavericks (18-19) are looking to build off their 122-84 beatdown against the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night and gain some momentum on the road when they face off with the Boston Celtics (22-15) who will be without star guard Kyrie Irving for the second straight game.
The Mavericks were able to down the Celtics in late November at home thanks to J.J. Barea’s 20 points, but most notably it was the first game in which the Mavericks unleashed point Luka Doncic as Dennis Smith Jr. sat out with an injury. Smith has obviously maintained a heavy workload, but this game might have started the shift as Doncic has usurped some of the lead guard role as of late from the sophomore guard.
With the Mavericks jockeying for playoff positioning, here’s what to watch for:
Luka vs Jaylen Pt. II
While Doncic was busy giving the Celtics the business in the first matchup, all Brown figured he could do was put a forearm into an unsuspecting Doncic in hopes of slowing him down.
Celtics trying to test the rook pic.twitter.com/UF5cuKZ6Jb— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 25, 2018
Brown was assessed with a technical and pleaded his case post game saying it wasn’t intentional , but also accused Doncic of flopping.
Brown whether he thought Doncic flopped: "He definitely flopped. Absolutely. But we're in his arena so he got that call." #Celtics #Mavericks— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) November 25, 2018
Doncic and the Mavericks got the last laugh as the rookie collected 15 points and eight assists in the win, but something tells me Doncic won’t forget the unpleasantries exchanged with Brown.
Dennis Smith Jr.’s hot shooting
Arguably the biggest flaw in Smith’s game after his rookie season centered around his inefficient and inconsistent shooting. While he was on his way to improved marks earlier this season, his wrist injury slowed him down considerably in the four games before the Mavericks shut him down for a bit.
But since returning to the lineup December 28, Smith is shooting 53 percent from deep, connecting on nine of his 17 attempts from deep. The time to heal has proven beneficial as Smith has looked like a different player save for a few mental errors at inopportune times. Tonight, Smith will match up with Terry Rozier, so he’ll have his hands full even with Irving out.
Defending the three-point line
The Mavericks truly live and die by the three, and tonight, how well they defend the perimeter will determine the outcome of the game. The Celtics hoist the third most three-point attempts per game and connect at the seventh best rate in the league. Dallas allows opponents to shoot nearly 36 percent from behind the arc on the road (compared to just 33 percent at home), so they’ll have to fly to the ball and close out on shooters to ensure the Celtics don’t get any looks.
How to watch
The game tips off at 7 PM CST and can be watched on ESPN.