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3 things to watch for as the Celtics come into town to face the Mavericks

Isaiah Thomas has been a one-man wrecking ball. Can the Mavs stop him?

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics come into town for their only game at the AAC tonight. The Celtics are playing well in general, having won 9 of their last 10, and are down only 2.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In the prior matchup, the Celtics beat the Mavs in Boston 90-83 behind a 22-point Isaiah Thomas fourth quarter so we’ll start with our keys of the game there:

Can the Mavs build a nice cushion going into the fourth?

Isaiah "Mr. Fourth Quarter" Thomas has become a legitimate MVP candidate over the last couple months. With the loss of his backcourt mate, Avery Bradley, his usage has lurched forward to 36 percent and the bottom line results reflect that. Thomas is currently the second-leading scorer in the league, between Russell Westbrook and James Harden, while leading the league in scoring in the fourth at nearly 11 points, shattering the old record set by Kobe Bryant at 9.5.

In a complete groove, regardless of how the first three quarters go, IT40 is capable of turning the game on its head in the final stanza. As witnessed last time, Thomas took over with a 22 burst in the fourth, so the Mavs will need to pad it up going in the final quarter.

Will Deron Williams play more minutes?

On Saturday, Williams came back from an eight-game layoff due to a toe injury and got right back into action, looking very productive in 16 minutes. He was on a minutes restriction and sat out the second half as the game got out of hand in Orlando. The win helped D-Will earned some high praise from head coach Rick Carlisle on Sunday when asked why he’s starting over Yogi Ferrell:

"Because D-Will is a better player. Let's not forget how well he was playing before the injury. He was playing at close to All-Star caliber. ... Yogi's done a great job. The role he had tonight is a perfect role for him."

Yogi’s role was to be off the bench sparkplug and he played 32 minutes in that role. With another two days off and a more competitive game, we’ll see if Williams’ minutes restriction loosens a bit. Expect the minute distribution to be more even if the game is close.

Our old friend Jae Crowder

Crowder has been a quiet efficiency monster in Boston, getting eerily close to a 50/90/40 season as he shoots 49/89/42 on the year. He has missed the last two games due to personal family issues and it’s not quite known if he will play tonight yet. He has been in Dallas so there’s a chance. If he does, his matchup with Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes will be a delight as Crowder is one of the toughest defenders in the league. If he doesn’t play, look for Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier to pick up his minutes at the forward positions.

How to watch

Tip-off is set for 7:30pm Central. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Southwest or via your League Pass account.