Neither the Dallas Mavericks nor the Boston Celtics are having the type of season fans expected at the start of the 2020-21 season. The Mavericks are a middling team in the Western Conference playoff race, currently sitting at a barely-above-sea-level 24-21. The Celtics, on the other hand, are currently sitting at a worrisome 23-24, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference.
Despite both teams currently sitting lower than their respective fans would like, both clubs have high ceilings and the potential to turn things around quickly. The Mavs have already started to do that behind some other-worldly play from Luka Doncic and some improved play from Kristaps Porzingis. The Celtics haven’t figured it out yet, but with guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the roster, they might be closer than you think.
Tonight, these two teams trying to gain some momentum heading into the stretch run of the season will duke it out. Here are 3 things to watch for.
What impact will the new guys have?
The Mavs didn’t do anything too splashy at the trade deadline, but they added a couple nice rotation pieces in JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli.
Barring something extremely weird happening (like a miracle), Redick won’t be suiting up against the Celtics as he continues to nurse a heel injury that’s sidelined him for multiple weeks. Melli, on the other hand, will be in the rotation against Boston, and as he showed in his 11-minute Mavs debut, he can do a little something-something!
Melli is a guy that likely won’t have a huge impact on the game, but he’s a guy who can provide a little extra spacing for the second unit to work. He’s a nice player, and Mavs fans should be thrilled to get another look at him tonight.
Kristaps Porzingis should dominate
I’m as big of a Kristaps Porzingis doubter as anyone, but tonight’s matchup is one that should treat him kindly. If he comes out with energy, he’ll be able to dominate the Celtics’ frontline.
After trading Daniel Theis to the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics are left with Robert Williams to guard Porzingis for the majority of tonight’s game. I actually like Williams as a young piece, but he’s certainly no Joel Embiid in the paint. If Kristaps wants, he should be able to get plenty of buckets tonight. But which version of Kristaps will we get — the aggressive one or the petulant one?
Can we see more of the rookies again? Please?
In the Mavs’ last game, the rookies got a little bit of run. Nate Hinton played six minutes. Tyler Bey played five minutes. And Josh Green played a whopping 16 minutes! Of course, a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-less Thunder team is a different level of opponent than a desperate Boston squad, but can we find some minutes to let these young guys run a little? Please, Rick?
I’m not asking for much. I know the Mavs will be trying their hardest to win this game, but there have to be a few minutes here or there for at least Josh Green, the Mavs’ 2020 first-round pick. Who knows, maybe the Mavs will face some injuries and/or foul trouble in a playoff game and they might need Green. Some more minutes now would certainly help.
How to watch
This game is scheduled to tip-off at 6:30 pm CT on ESPN. Don’t miss the action!