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3 things to watch as the Mavericks take on the Boston Celtics

The Mavericks try to strike up another winning streak.

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Fresh off a grimy win against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night, the Dallas Mavericks head home to the AAC to take on the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. The Mavericks are 3-1 at home this season and 5-3 overall, while the Celtics are 4-2 on the road. Boston has won two in a row, but will be on their third game in four days.

Josh Richardson returns to Dallas after being traded over the summer. He’s listed as day-to-day with a left foot bruise. Jaylen Brown is listed as out with hamstring tightness.

For the Mavericks, Maxi Kleber is out with an oblique strain. Kristaps Porzingis is currently listed as out as of Friday, but he practiced and the Mavericks are hopeful he’ll play. Reggie Bullock is day-to-day with a bruised face.

Here are three things to watch for against the Celtics:

The Mavericks should get to the line.

Dallas is currently sixth in the league with 22 free throws per game. The Celtics are dead last in opponent free throw attempts. Opposing teams average 24.7 free throws per game against Boston. The only question will be whether the Mavericks can actually convert those free throws. They’re only shooting 70.5% from the charity stripe, 28th in the league. Luka Doncic especially struggles, shooting only 69% on free throws. At some point, leaving all those free points on the table is going to catch up with the Mavericks.

Will Jalen Brunson continue to light the court on fire?

One of the ways the Mavericks could improve internally this season was Brunson taking a leap and becoming the secondary playmaker and perimeter scorer they’ve been missing. So far, he’s doing just that. It’s a small sample size, but through eight games, Brunson is averaging 15 points, 4.3 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game, all career highs.

Brunson put up 31 points in the win over the Spurs, putting the game away in the fourth quarter. He also had 25 points in the loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday. Though only standing 6’1”, Brunson is fourth in the team in rebounding, just barely behind Dorian Finney-Smith at 5.6 and Porzingis at 6.0 per game.

Before the season began, I said this about Brunson in a round table on who will be the most improved player on the Mavericks this season:

A lot has been made about the tough adjustment year for rookies Josh Green and Tyrell Terry, but consider the last 18 months for Brunson. His sophomore season was interrupted by a shoulder injury AND a pandemic. He basically had no offseason between his second and third years. Despite this, he improved on the court in 2020-21. Now he comes into this season with a summer of training and fully healthy. I think we’ll see improved shooting and defense from him, and Brunson will finally show he’s capable of running the offense when Luka sits.

He’s doing just that and more. Hopefully this isn’t just an early season hot streak, but his new level of play.

Prepare for isolation basketball.

The Celtics go isolation heavy the majority of the time on offense. Almost 11% of their field goals are taken off of isolation, second in the NBA. Only the Brooklyn Nets take more shots out of isolation sets. The good thing for the Mavericks? The Celtics aren’t very good at converting those shots out of isolation. They only shoot 35% when they isolate one of their players, 25th in the NBA. Dallas is equipped to hold Boston to those same low percentages. They can throw Bullock and Finney-Smith at Jayson Tatum, who are sure to get the majority of those attempts. Marcus Smart might be itching to put up some shots as well, and the Mavericks should absolutely let him. Letting the Celtics go iso heavy is a recipe for success.

How to Watch

The game tips off at 7:30 p.m CST. and can be seen on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass.