After a dominant win in Houston, the Mavericks continue their road trip with a stop at the TD Garden to take on the Boston Celtics. Similar to Dallas, Boston has hit their stride as the season has gone one and are now ranked fifth in the eastern conference. They are 8-2 in their last 10 matchups, with wins over the Nets, 76ers, and Grizzlies in that stretch. The Celtics have the third best defensive rating (106.4) and the fourth best net rating (5.8) in the league.
The last time the Mavs took on the Celtics, they held the C’s to 29 percent from three while limiting them to only 36 rebounds which was key in helping them get the victory (for those that don’t remember, this was the game where Doncic hit the buzzer-beating three at the left hash over a Josh Richardson-Marcus Smart double team). This is another game that could easily go down to the wire, as evidenced by the current spread which has Boston currently as five point favorites, according the Draft Kings. The Mavericks will continue their push to steal the fourth seed from the Jazz to secure home court advantage. They are currently only a game and a half behind Utah with 16 games left to go.
Here’s what I’ll be watching for:
Split up Kleber and Bertans
Since the trade deadline, there have been very few strong shooting performances between Maxi Kleber and Davis Bertans. Neither of them are true fives, so when they play together, it’s clear that the fit isn’t ideal. With the Mavericks trading Porzingis at the deadline and Marquese Chriss being out with an injury, coach Jason Kidd hasn’t had a lot of options in the front court.
Moving forward, I will be looking to see how much Kidd elects to have Kleber and Bertans sharing the floor. While he isn’t thought of as a defensive guy, Bertans does have quick feet. I would like to see him out there with Dorian Finney-Smith as a small-ball five or with Dwight Powell. Playing Bertans with Finney-Smith and Powell as opposed to Kleber will balance out all of their strengths and weaknesses. I’m a big fan of Kidd going smaller (even though he doesn’t really have a choice). He has played Reggie Bullock and Josh Green at the four which has been really fun. Splitting up Kleber and Bertans and pairing each of them with any of Powell, Finney-Smith, Bullock, and Green will give them more room to operate within their own wheelhouse offensively.
Establish a presence in the paint
A lot of Boston’s success this season has come as a result of their high-level defense and impressive rebounding. As mentioned before, they have the fourth best defense in the league and are fifth best in rebounding. Robert Williams III is averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game while Al Horford has been fantastic this season. I will be looking to see how Kidd schemes to minimize Boston’s impact on the glass. Going up against a playoff team that can play defense and rebound well will be a good test for the Mavs as they will likely have to deal with one of Rudy Gobert, (potentially) James Wiseman, Jaren Jackson Jr., or Nikola Jokic in the first round of the playoffs
Get Jalen going
Jalen Brunson is having a phenomenal year, as evidenced by him being promoted into a starter role. The introduction of Spencer Dinwiddie has been great for this team and for Brunson when looking at his shooting numbers. Brunson has recently missed a few games with minor injuries, while Dinwiddie’s play has been spectacular. In Dallas’ last 10 games against playoff teams, Brunson has averaged 14.4 points per game. After having a tough series in last year’s playoffs, the Mavericks are going to need Brunson to be a big contributor in the postseason, especially with the injury of Tim Hardaway Jr. and the departure of Kristaps Porzingis. This matchup against the Celtics, a team that has size and length, will be a good opportunity for him to show that he is ready to give Dallas what they will need in order to finally get past the first round.