- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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at TD Garden, 8 p.m. | ESPN, WEEI (850 AM)
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
NowitzkiRoad warriors: The Mavericks already beat the Celtics in Dallas earlier this year and they might actually be playing their best basketball away from the American Airlines Center. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Dallas boasts 10 road wins against teams with winning records this season. That's three more than anyone else in the league (Celtics and Spurs have seven apiece).
Zoned in: Dallas won't particularly care that Boston is shooting a league-best 49.9 percent from the floor. They'd like to turn this into another jump-shooting contest, which did them well in the season's first meeting, so they'll clog up the lane and challenge the Celtics to shoot from the perimeter. Boston, which averages nearly 44 points per game in the paint, settled for 38 points there in the first meeting, while shooting a mere 41.8 percent overall (including just 38.7 percent -- 12 of 31 overall -- from the mid-range). The Mavericks naturally shun the paint, averaging a league-low 33.8 points per game there -- negating Boston's typical ability to take that away from an opponent.
BareaThe Barea Watch: It's a homecoming for Northeastern product Jose Juan Barea, just one of five players in NBA history produced by the school (the others being Rick Weitzman, Celtics, 1967–1968; Harry Barnes, San Diego Rockets, 1968–1969; Perry Moss, Bullets, 1985, 76ers, 1985–1986, Warriors, 1986–1987; and, of course, Reggie Lewis, Celtics, 1987–1993.) But here's the uncanny thing: According to Elias, no Northeastern product, playing as a visitor in Boston, has ever reached double digits in points, rebounds, or assists in one game against the Celtics. Barea, averaging 8.6 points per game, has a shot to end that point streak on Friday.
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Dirk Nowitzki became the 24th player to reach 22,000 points in the Dallas Mavericks' latest win, their sixth straight as they continue to re-establish themselves as one of the best in the Western Conference.
In what's becoming a Hall of Fame career, Nowitzki has never been consistently better than he's been when facing the Boston Celtics. Nowitzki's 27.3 points per game versus Boston are his most against any opponent, but the league's stingiest defensive team should provide a stiff challenge Friday night at TD Garden.
The Mavericks (33-15) lost seven of the nine games Nowitzki missed with a sore knee in late December and early January, and dropped three of four upon his return.
Suddenly, they've regained the form that allowed them to win 17 of 18 prior to Nowitzki's injury. Dallas shot 50.0 percent and outrebounded New York 54-34 while cruising to a 113-97 victory at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
The Mavericks have averaged 104.5 points during their six consecutive wins -- 14.6 more than in their previous 13 games -- but Nowitzki believes defense is making the difference. Dallas limited the high-scoring Knicks to 45 second-half points.
"I think our defense has been going back to where we were in November-December," said Nowitzki, who finished with 29 points. "I think if you look at our effort defensively in the second half, that's what won us the game."
His offense didn't hurt. After scoring 13 in the first half to hit exactly 22,000, Nowitzki had eight points in 2 1/2 minutes early in the third -- part of a 26-6 run that gave Dallas a 24-point cushion.
"There's a guy who's worked more on developing his game (than anybody) in the history of the league," coach Rick Carlisle told the NBA's official website. "There's a reason the ball goes in the basket. He's put in the work."
Read the full preview HERE.
12dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford