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Mavericks face improved Celtics squad on the road

Dallas aims to pick up its second win against an Eastern Conference team tonight in Boston. The Celtics showed in back-to-back Ws against Oklahoma City and Houston they won't be pushovers.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks face the Celtics Wednesday for the second time since the Rajon Rondo trade that altered the course of the previous season. It's also the first time the teams have played since that move blew up in Dallas' face and the point guard was exiled from the team in the middle of the first round.

The trajectory of the two teams could hardly have been more different in the second half of that season. The Mavericks became unbearable to watch at times and the Celtics, after acquiring Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix, went on a 20-11 run to finish the season before losing in the first round to Cleveland.

Preseason projections likewise had Boston up and Dallas way down this year. So it's nice to see the Mavs come in tonight with a (slightly) better record, while getting solid production from Dwight Powell, a throw-in in the Rondo trade. They've notched wins in the last week against the team whose free agent screwed them over (Los Angeles) and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs (Houston). A win over the team that took their lunch money in the trade would go even further in rinsing out the bad taste from last season.

What did Boston do over the summer?

Danny Ainge added guards Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter as well as forward Jordan Mickey through the draft this June but the rookies have yet to get any serious burn from Brad Stevens. More relevant to this season, Boston added power forwards Amir Johnson and David Lee through free agency and trades. But the star of the show remains the 5'9" Thomas, who averages 21 points and 6 assists.

Hello, old friend

After playing a key bench role for two and a half seasons in Dallas, Jae "the Beast" Crowder is entrenched at the starting small forward spot in Boston. Celtics fans apparently love Jae, and rightfully so, but in many ways he's emblematic of their roster as a whole -- he's a decent but not a great player. Boston has solid depth at every position but no real stars right now besides an undersized point guard. The flip side of that for Celtics opponents is there's not a big drop off in talent with their bench units. The Mavs will likely need guys like Powell, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris to continue their recent play to come out with a win.

What team stat could determine the game?

Crowder could still turn into an extremely useful wing if he ever gets his outside shot right. He's making a big impact on the defensive end, leading the league with a 4.8 steal percentage while earning the seventh-best individual defensive rating. But he's still shooting just 27 percent from the three point line -- a struggle with which Mavs fans are quite familiar.

The Celtics as a team make just 30 percent of three point attempts, good for 28th in the league. For whatever reason, Dallas hasn't been much better, hitting just 31 percent (24th) from outside so far. Neither team has done a great job knocking down open shots so far this season. Tonight's game could be decided by which team has a couple more of those shots go in.

How to Watch

The game starts at 6:30 pm Central. Catch it on FSSW or League Pass.