Boston: 101.58 points/100 possessions (14th)
Dallas: 101.7 points/100 possessions (15th)
Boston: 100.7 points allowed/100 possessions (11th)
Dallas: 102.9 points allowed/100 possessions (17th)
Probable Dallas starters: Derek Fisher (PG), OJ Mayo (SG), Dahntay Jones (SF), Brandon Wright (PF), Chris Kaman (C)
View from the opposing bench: The Two Man Game
Thumbnail: It feels like ages since the Celtics have been on the court, doesn’t it? After 96 hours of down time, the Mavs are in town tonight, although it’s a far different Dallas team than we’re used to seeing. Dirk Nowitzki remains out with an injury, OJ Mayo is lighting up the league and Jason Terry has switched sides. Still, the goal remains the same for Doc Rivers and company as we move into the second quarter of the season: find consistency through incremental improvements. Recently, the pendulum has been shifting for the Celtics with the defense rounding into form even as the offense has slipped back into the middle of the pack. With every passing game, the C’s more closely resemble last year’s team. For better and worse.
To get the inside tip on the Mavs, we threw a few questions at Bryan Gutierrez of The Two Man Game, the True Hoop Network’s Dallas Mavericks site.
Hit the jump for his thoughts.
CelticsHub: He’s gone from marginal starter to scoring machine, which begs the question: what exactly have you people put in O.J. Mayo’s water?
Bryan Gutierrez: I don’t necessarily think it’s anything in terms of what is in the water, but I do think it’s due to an opportunity to shine in an offense that can allow him to play free. Coming into the season, Mayo said he was going to give his game to coach Rick Carlisle and have full trust in his coach’s ability to get the best out of him. Carlisle is a solid technician in terms of operating flow out of his offense. Credit must be given to Mayo, as well, since he put a ton of work in during the offseason. I think he was going to have a nice year as long as he went into a situation that was going to play to his strengths, but Dallas’ situation might be a best case scenario.
He was humbled a bit by the lack of significant suitors during the free agency period, so he used the offseason and training camp time to build that chip on his shoulder and show he can play at an elite level. To this point, it’s hard to argue that he’s not living up to those self-imposed expectations.
CH: Can Dirk Nowitzki’s return push this Mavs team into the upper echelon of the Western Conference or is the championship window closed?
BG: Things will certainly be interesting when Dirk comes back. If you told anyone who regularly tracks the Mavericks that they would hover around .500 while Dirk was out, they would be ecstatic with that result. The Dallas teams of the past just weren’t that good when Dirk was out due to injury. If you go back and look at the team’s record during the championship year, they were 2-7 in the nine games he sat due to a knee injury. Read that again. It goes to show that Dirk is true game-changer and that his performance during the title run was amazing.
The talent on this year’s roster is significantly better and younger compared to the title team. The biggest thing will be whether or not they give themselves enough time to mesh and gel together. Dirk has been in the league for so long that it probably won’t take him much time to adapt to his new teammates. The interesting thing to look at will be how Dirk and Mayo work together. They have the chance to make beautiful basketball music together if they can get on the same page. After signing with the Mavs, Mayo told me one of the things he was truly looking forward to was working late at night in the gym with Dirk and figuring out how to become a better player. There is a healthy level of respect from Mayo towards Dirk, so I think they’re going to get along well. The Mavericks’ organization believes in two things when it comes to the playoffs: just get in the playoffs and be healthy. If they can do those two things, 2011 suggests they’ll like their chances.
CH: What do you expect to see tonight and who wins?
BG: I expect to see a game somewhat typical of Boston/Dallas matchups over the last two to three years. They’ve been highly competitive games. Dallas has been fortunate to build some impressive comeback victories over the Celtics, both on the road and at home.
I’m very interesting to see how Jason Terry performs as he faces the Mavericks for the first time since departing during the offseason. I’ve heard reports that he’s saying there’s no adding meaning to the game for Terry. That’s just putting up a front. It definitely will mean something to him. Knowing the type of competitor he is, he’ll want to have a great night, put the JET out on the runway and hit the game-winning shot against his former team.
As for the actual result, pace will be the factor. The Mavericks want to run and use their athleticism. If Boston can dictate a slower, physical pace, that will prove to be a challenge for Dallas. I have no idea who will win because things can happen on any given night. I do expect it to be a fantastic game between two talented franchises.
Bryan’s shy about making predictions but, as you know, I have no problem being wrong and doing it in public. The C’s have had plenty of time to rest (no front-rimming jumpers) and fine-tune their defense (expect more lockdown work on the perimeter). I think they take a big step forward tonight.
Boston 106 Dallas 90