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3 things as the Mavericks face the Celtics on a back-to-back

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Can Dallas finally get the monkey off their back (to back)?

NBA: Boston Celtics at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the Mavericks’ sixth back-to-back this year, and they’ll be looking for their first win under such circumstances, as they currently have an 0-5 record this season. If there was ever a set of games they could pull it off, this would be the pair, coming off a win against a Memphis team following over a week off due to Texas’ winter storms.

Notching their first W in a back-to-back would be doubly great because it would put them back at the .500 mark after dealing with a number of early struggles to start the season. One has to imagine there’s some level of added incentive for a team with post season expectations to get back on the right side of the win/loss columns. It would certainly be a good jumping off point as we near the All-Star break and the Mavs find themselves fighting for a playoff spot in a competitive-as-always West.

Defensive effort and/or luck

In their win over Memphis, Dallas gave up just 92 points — a number reminiscent of their early season defense when four of their first six wins came with holding opponents under 100. It was an outcome that proved to be a bit of a mirage — as Iztok Franco covered in his piece — and the Mavericks were soon back to relying on a great offense to cover up defensive woes.

Zach Kram of The Ringer has been making note of how inseparable 3-point shooting has become to winning games in the NBA nowadays, with outlier shooting performances becoming one of best indicators of winning or losing.

That certainly held true in the Mavs’ wire-to-wire win over the Grizzlies, who shot just 6-31 (19.4%) from deep in a game that was never all that competitive. To the extent that Dallas can limit good looks from deep against the Celtics (the NBA’s 12th best three-point shooting team, hitting 37.3% on the season), they give themselves a great shot to win. However, if your opponent is having a good shooting night, there may just not be much that can be done to stop them.

What about Porzingis?

With eight full days in between games, Kristaps Porzingis still managed to land on the injury report on Monday before the Memphis game with back soreness. How much of that is real and how much is Dallas gamesmanship trying to hold Porzingis out of back-to-back action? Little of column A, little of column B, most likely. With a nationally televised game against Boston (and thus stricter rest rules) Dallas likely wanted to stick to the script with regards to how they work Porzingis back into game action after an offseason knee surgery.

With any luck, Porzingis will have benefitted from the rest and practice time provided by the extended time off; not unlike teammates Tim Hardaway Jr. and Josh Richardson, both of whom were white-hot and energetic in their first game in over a week.

Make Kemba invisible

In Boston’s current rough patch, the play of Kemba Walker has been a fairly good analogue for how the Celtics go on any given night. In the team’s last six games, Walker was sidelined in losses to the lowly Pistons and Hawks. Then, after losing by eight to Atlanta, Kemba returned and played well, scoring 28 in a 12-point Boston win in the very next game.

That said, it goes beyond just whether Walker plays or not. He had a horrible 1-12 night from the three point line that ended up as an overtime loss to New Orleans.

Now basketball is a team sport and it’s not fair to either the Celtics nor Walker to pin losses on the individual player. However, Boston is not unlike Dallas in that they have their bonafide, consistent star they depend on. For Dallas, it’s of course Luka Doncic, and in Boston it’s a bit different as they rely on the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But this season has showed that those guys, as amazing as they are, can’t do it alone out there. Someone — ANY one — has to step up alongside them and contribute to winning basketball.

To that end, the more Dallas can prevent Boston’s mercurial guard from blowing up the box score, the better shot they’ve got at .500, no matter how many Tatum puts up.

How to watch

The game tips at 6:30 p.m. CT and can be watched on TNT.