Boston Celtics: Dallas Mavericks

Mild ankle sprain for Lee

March, 22, 2013
3/22/13
11:55
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Boston Celtics guard Courtney Lee suffered a mild sprained left ankle in Friday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks and is day-to-day, according to the team. His availability for Saturday's visit to Memphis is uncertain.

Lee landed awkwardly on an opponent's foot while trying to defend on the perimeter as Boston made a late-game charge. Play continued with Lee on the ground and O.J. Mayo buried a clinching 3-pointer that pushed Dallas' lead to eight with 81 seconds to play.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters that he hadn't gotten an update from the training staff, but noted, "[Lee] said he was good; we'll see [Saturday]."

Later Rivers added: "I didn’t think it was major injury, I can tell you that. I was hoping that he could get up, because we needed him to get up at that point. The damnedest play, you’re down five, making a run, and you got a guy laying on the floor, it felt like it took 40 seconds [and] they make a 3. We were stuck, do you foul? Down five, you don’t want to take a foul, you’re just hoping someone misses a shot and somehow we got a rebound. But it didn’t work out for us."

Lee has appeared in all 68 games for Boston this season, including 36 starts. If he can't suit up in Memphis, the Celtics could look to Jason Terry or Jordan Crawford to step into that role -- or shuffle Paul Pierce to more of a guard spot and insert Jeff Green into the starting lineup.

Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 104, Celtics 94

March, 22, 2013
3/22/13
11:15
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AP Photo/Brandon WadeCeltics guard Jason Terry returned to Dallas on Friday night.
Rapid reaction after the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Boston Celtics 104-94 on Friday night at American Airlines Center:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Brandan Wright scored a game-high 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go along with eight rebounds over 30 minutes, while Vince Carter added 19 points (and was a game-best plus-25) off the bench for the Mavericks. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass each scored 16 points for Boston (Bass and KG pairing up for 23 rebounds), but the Celtics spent nearly the entire night trying to play catch-up.

TERRY DOES DALLAS
Jason Terry returned to Dallas for the first time as a member of the Boston Celtics and was showered with a standing ovation when he checked in with four minutes to play in the first quarter. Terry promised to be more aggressive and landed at the free throw line 30 seconds in, but he finished with just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with three turnovers over 21:57. He was minus-6 overall.

TURNING POINT
The Celtics trailed virtually the entire night and spent most of the second half trying to chip away at a double-digit deficit. Every time Dallas' lead dipped to single digits, the Mavericks pushed it right back up. Boston clawed within six numerous times in the fourth quarter, including with 6:36 to play, but Dallas responded with a little 6-0 burst that included a Wright putback and a Carter finger roll for a 93-81 lead with five minutes to go. The Celtics simply could never get over the hump, charging within five with 1:51 to go before O.J. Mayo delivered the 3-point dagger.

LEE INJURES ANKLE
Celtics guard Courtney Lee, playing crunch-time minutes, appeared to injure his left ankle, landing awkwardly on an opponent's foot while defending as Boston made a late charge. Lee had to be helped to the bench, but was able to hobble to the locker room after the game.

WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (36-32) fall to 0-2 on this three-game road trip and have lost three straight overall. Boston put together a dismal first half, shooting 37.1 percent from the floor (13-of-35) while missing an impossible number of layups, turning the ball over nine times and failing to stop the pick-and-roll. That left the Celtics with an 11-point halftime deficit that was too much to overcome. The Celtics head immediately to Memphis for the second night of a back-to-back against the Grizzlies. The two teams will have something in common as Memphis lost to those pesky, no-longer-cellar-dwelling Hornets on Friday night. The Celtics dip a half-game back of Chicago and are now four games behind Brooklyn (the current fourth seed). The only good news for Boston: Two other teams nearby on the playoff ladder -- Atlanta and Milwaukee -- also lost on Friday night.

Rivers OK with last-second shots

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
2:45
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ESPN Broadcast ScreenshotCeltics captain Paul Pierce gets his overtime shot blocked by Dahntay Jones.
BOSTON -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers accepted the blame for two poorly executed final-shot attempts, both of which could have won Wednesday's double-overtime thriller against the Dallas Mavericks, but both were blocked as defenders smothered the right elbow and prevented Boston from generating a quality chance to win.

At the end of regulation, point guard Rajon Rondo produced a steal when he poked the ball away from O.J. Mayo from behind as the Dallas guard took a high handoff and attempted to streak into the paint. Alas, Kevin Garnett made a pass before the Celtics were awarded a timeout, forcing the team to take the inbounds in front of its own bench (instead of advancing the ball past midcourt) with 6.9 seconds to play. Rondo came off a Paul Pierce pick, but couldn't shake defender Derrick Fisher, who got enough of the ball to block the final-shot opportunity and send the game to overtime tied at 96.

A Rondo step-back from the elbow seemingly isn't an ideal look, but his blossoming mid-range game makes it a viable option now in Boston's late-game playbook. The Celtics likely had a secondary option with the ball going to Pierce if Dallas switched the pick-and-roll, but Fisher stayed with Rondo through the screen and Boston's other players were buried in the corners spacing the floor.

In overtime, Boston had a bit more time to work with -- 11.1 seconds and inbounding from inside of half court in a tied game -- but did little to maximize that opportunity. Rondo dribbled nearly seven seconds off the clock before an awkward bounce pass to Pierce, who had been driven out toward the arc by Dahntay Jones. Pierce rushed for his standard elbow step-back, but was smothered by Jones and Pierce didn't come close on his shot attempt (like Fisher, Jones was credited with a block for deflecting the final shot).

Said Rondo of the overtime attempt: "The second overtime we got the ball to Paul and give [the Mavericks] credit, they played good D. It's just how it is."

Rivers ultimately took the blame for the two poor looks. While he didn't mind how the plays unfolded, he acknowledged he could have drawn up two better plays.

Maybe Jeff Green summed up Boston's disposition best: "We got into the plays that we wanted to get into. I don’t know, I’m just happy we won. I’m glad it's over.”

Rapid Reaction: Celts 117, Mavs 115 (2 OT)

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
11:24
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Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo navigates his way through traffic against the Mavericks.
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Dallas Mavericks 117-115 in double overtime on Wednesday night at TD Garden:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Paul Pierce scored a game-high 34 points on 11-of-25 shooting with 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists. His biggest bucket might have been a 3-pointer at the start of the second overtime (and he hit four big free throws in the final moments of the second extra session to help finally seal the win). Rajon Rondo flirted with an extra-time triple-double, putting up 16 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds. Jason Terry registered 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting and might have been a little overhyped against his former squad. O.J. Mayo scored a team-high 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting for the Mavericks, while Darren Collison scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting off the bench.

TURNING POINT 1: BOSTON BUILDS A LEAD
In a two-possession game early in the third quarter, the Celtics embarked on an 11-2 run to give themselves a little breathing room. Garnett lit the fuse with a 19-foot jumper and a Brandon Bass steal led to a Terry 3-pointer. Bass produced two easy buckets -- sandwiched around a Dallas timeout that couldn't stem the momentum -- with a putback and a driving dunk for a 65-52 lead with 6:36 remaining in the frame. But the Mavericks wouldn't go quietly ...

TURNING POINT 2: A 140-SECOND GAME
Dallas seemingly couldn't get over the hump, but back-to-back layups by Mayo and Darren Collison tied the game at 92 with 2:40 to play. Fast-forward to the closing moments: Rondo managed to poke the ball free as Mayo attempted a late drive, registering a steal that gave Boston the ball with 6.9 seconds to go. Rondo, however, couldn't even get off a quality shot at the buzzer as his 20-foot step-back was blocked by Derek Fisher.

TURNING POINT 3: OT -- PIERCE CAN'T WIN IT
In a back-and-forth battle, Rondo drove baseline and kicked to Garnett in his sweet spot for an 18-foot jumper and a 105-103 lead with 26 seconds to go. At the other end, Mayo blew past Rondo and finished between Pierce and Garnett to tie the game with 11.1 seconds to play. This time around it was Pierce who couldn't get off a quality shot, draped by Dahntay Jones at the right elbow.

TURNING POINT 4: DOUBLE OT
A Pierce 3-pointer to open the second extra session was the only Boston bucket over the first 4 minutes, but it was enough to keep the Mavericks at arm's length. The Celtics were up a point when Rondo completed a driving layup and Pierce added a free throw soon after to put Boston up four with 17.3 seconds to go. Even Boston couldn't mess that up.

KG'S REBOUND SHUTOUT ENDS
After being shut out on the glass during Saturday's win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Garnett didn't get his first rebound of the game until two minutes into the second quarter on Wednesday. Dating back to a rebound in overtime against the 76ers on Friday, he ultimately went 62 minutes, 41 seconds without a rebound. Here's a bit more from Elias Sports Bureau: Garnett's shutout on Saturday ended his streak of 1,159 consecutive regular-season games with at least one rebound. That had been the longest current streak for any active player. Tim Duncan now has the longest active streak, having collected at least one rebound in all of his 1,132 career games. The Mavericks’ Shawn Marion has the second-longest active streak behind Duncan at 951 games.

WHAT IT MEANS
Well, that was ugly. No, seriously, burn the game tape. Then burn it again. But a Boston team focused on putting wins together now has two in a row and it doesn't matter how ugly it was nor that it came against the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks. The Celtics were certainly not complaining about the absence of Nowitzki, who sat courtside for the game as he rehabs from knee surgery. According to Elias Sports Bureau, since the start of the 1998-99 season (Nowitzki’s rookie year), the Celtics were 7-19 (.269) against the Mavericks. That matches Boston’s worst mark against any opponent over the past 15 seasons. Dallas had won the past four games before Wednesday's meeting. Bottom line: The game probably never should have been as close as it was. The Mavericks committed 28 turnovers leading to 30 points, but Boston just couldn't get out of its own way (missing 3-pointers and bunnies alike, and offering little resistance when Dallas rallied). The Celtics now depart on a three-game road trip with stops in Houston, San Antonio and Chicago before the team returns home to welcome Cleveland next Wednesday night.

Pregame: Terry ready to play former squad

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
7:43
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BOSTON -- Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry, set to play his former squad for the first time Wednesday night when the Dallas Mavericks visit TD Garden, continued to downplay the significance of the matchup before tipoff.

"It's going to be more special when we go to Dallas, because then you've got the fans involved," said Terry. "I know they'll be watching tonight, but it's a lot different when you're on the court and you're in that arena again. So, tonight's going to be good. I'll see everybody, say 'What's up?' but again, March 22, it's going to be special."

So you've got the date circled, JET?

"Oh, no question. No question," he said. "Again, I've still got friends and family that still live in the area. My AAU teams are still out there, so it's going to be fun to go back."

Terry, who signed a three-year deal with Boston this offseason, said Dallas is still his home and hopes to return there some day (possibly in a role with the Mavericks organization). But he suggested that's likely a ways off.

"I definitely feel like I've got several good years at a high level still playing," said Terry. "So you never know."

Terry reflected fondly on his time in Dallas.

"Everything we did in Dallas was special, obviously, and I'll always remember -- that lasting memory for me, it wasn't last year's season and the lockout, it was what we accomplished in 2011, winning a championship for that city, for that organization," said Terry.

Asked if he misses Terry, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, "As KC Jones would say, 'Does a bear [go to the bathroom] in the woods?' Yeah, we miss him."

A few more notes from pregame, including Fab Melo's quick shuttle between Maine and Massachusetts, Rivers won't give any clues on Avery Bradley's return, and Carlisle joked about getting his number retired in Boston.

(Read full post)

W2W4: Celtics vs. Mavericks (Game 21 of 82)

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
12:00
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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireThe Celtics host the Dirk-less Mavericks on Wednesday night.
The Boston Celtics (11-9, 7-4 home) host the Dallas Mavericks (11-10, 4-7 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (ESPN, 8 p.m.) Here's what to watch for:

* NO NOWITZKI, NO PROBLEM: The Celtics will catch a break as Dirk Nowitzki is sidelined while recovering from knee surgery. Boston coach Doc Rivers knows his team can't let up because of that, but he's not complaining about the situation. "I hope we don't [relax]," said Rivers. "Listen, I love the competition [and], on one end, you always like to beat whoever they are, at their best. The other end, it's not bad having guys out. So, the bottom line is, we can't worry about that part of it. I don't focus on that at all. I focus on our guys and we have to be ready to play." The Mavs have won the last four meetings between the teams, often because of Nowitzki's exploits.

* TERRY VS. OLD FRIENDS: As different as the Mavericks look this season, Celtics guard Jason Terry will have all sorts of motivation going up against his former team. Rivers said he'll still pick his brain about Dallas' tendencies. "We will interrogate him at some point... But they are different though. Without Dirk, and they have so many different pieces. They're not running a lot of the stuff that they ran with JT." For more on how Terry's feeling going up against his old squad, hop HERE.

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: Even without Nowitzki and Terry, the Mavericks remain a talented offensive team. Entering Tuesday's action, Dallas ranked eighth in the league averaging 0.935 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. What's more, Dallas is fifth best in the league in transition and the likes of O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison will challenge Boston's league-worst transition defense. Mayo, nearly swapped for Ray Allen last season, ranks in the 94th percentile overall, averaging 1.085 points per play (and thriving in spot-up and isolations situations). Defensively, the Mavs are somewhat unremarkable, ranking 16th overall while allowing 0.915 points per play. Dallas is exploitable in the post, but otherwise ranks in the middle of the league in defending other top play types. As good as Mayo has been offensively, his numbers are an eyesore defensively (27th percentile, 0.929 points per play).

* HOLD THE MAYO: Rivers openly gushed about Mayo on Tuesday noting, "O.J. Mayo's playing off the charts, shooting above 50 from the 3. What's impressive with him -- they're running a lot of [isolations] and he's guarded taking 3s. That's scary when you see a guy who's guarded taking 3s and he's making over 50 percent of them. [Chris] Kaman is playing well, Vince Carter has clearly gone to the Hot Tub Time Machine -- he's playing terrific, he's dunking, he's jumping, so, [Mavs coach] Rick [Carlisle is] doing a heck of a job with that team. Having Dirk out and playing the way they play is pretty impressive."

Mayo headed to the Mavs

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
12:24
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Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesO.J. Mayo at work for the Grizzlies.
Free agent O.J. Mayo is headed to the Mavericks. From our friends at ESPN Dallas:
The Dallas Mavericks and shooting guard O.J. Mayo have agreed to a multiyear deal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Mayo, 24, spent the first four seasons of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 15.2 points a game. He is set to join a radically revamped Mavs roster that has added center Chris Kaman, forward Elton Brand, shooting guard Dahntay Jones and point guard Darren Collison in the last five days.

The third overall pick in the 2008 draft broke the news on his Twitter account, saying, "I will be signing with dallas! #Mavsnation."

Not long after, Mavs owner Mark Cuban tweeted: "Welcome to the family OJ. We are fired up !! MFFL Mavs/Mayo Fan For Life !"

Mayo was one of the top available shooting guards and someone the Celtics seemed interested in to help fill the vacancy left by Ray Allen's departure (the two players were reportedly nearly swapped at last year's trade deadline). The Celtics already added former Mavericks shooting guard Jason Terry, but it appears Dallas has softened their own loss by swooping up Mayo.

Boston is likely left focusing on unrestricted free agent Courtney Lee, who met last week with Celtics coach Doc Rivers in Orlando and later admitted Boston was one of his potential destinations. Trouble for the Celtics is that they don't have the necessary available money to entice Lee, and Boston was working on a potential sign-and-trade deal with Dallas over Terry, which might have freed the team's midlevel exception to utilize in the pursuit of a shooting guard like Mayo or Lee.

Observations: C's problems piling up

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
11:50
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Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe Celtics couldn't keep up with the offensive talents of Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
Observations after the Boston Celtics' 89-73 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center on Monday.

* Depleted lineup not enough: As if missing Brandon Bass (knee injury) and Kevin Garnett (family matter) wasn't enough, word broke just hours before the game that Rajon Rondo would miss Monday's tilt as part of a two-game suspension for throwing the ball at an official during Sunday's loss to the Detroit Pistons. Put simply, the Celtics just didn't have enough firepower to contend with Dallas' wealth of talent.

The C's managed just 73 points, scoring a mere 15 in the first quarter on 6-of-20 shooting (30 percent), and entered halftime with just 34 points on the board, trailing the Mavericks by 10 at the break. The C's then scored just 19 points in the third quarter as Dallas outscored them by seven, taking a comfortable 17-point edge into the fourth frame that the Celtics never really cut into.

All things considered, the Celtics have had similar (if not poorer) offensive showings with a fuller (if not complete) lineup (just consider a 79-71 home loss to the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 20, also without Rondo, but with Garnett and Bass). With Rondo and Garnett out, Dallas had more freedom to load up on Paul Pierce -- who put in a team-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting -- and Ray Allen, who was just 6-of-15 shooting while scoring 15 points. Mickael Pietrus, Boston's biggest hope off the bench, also struggled, making just two of his eight field goal attempts and finishing with only six points.

The offensive struggles were to be expected, quite frankly. Dallas boasts one of the NBA's elite defenses, and without Rondo roaming around and creating opportunities for himself and others, Boston's offense became stagnant. It's impossible to predict exactly what kind of impact Rondo would have had on Monday's outcome, but any hope of breaking out in transition and scoring easy buckets inside was further limited without Employee No. 9.

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Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 89, Celtics 73

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
10:48
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Jerome Miron/US PresswirePaul Pierce and the Celtics continued their recent stumble in Dallas on Monday.
Rapid reaction after the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Boston Celtics 89-73 Monday night at American Airlines Center.

HOW THE GAME WAS LOST
Playing shorthanded without Kevin Garnett (family issue), Rajon Rondo (suspension), and Brandon Bass (knee), the offensively anemic Celtics fell victim to some familiar recent woes (turning the ball over 17 times; allowing 13 offensive rebounds; and shooting a mere 39.2 percent from the floor) while dropping their fourth in a row (sixth in seven games) and falling to 15-16 on the season. Sure, the Celtics lost both Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (adductor) along the way, but they were already facing a double-digit deficit by that point. Paul Pierce chipped in a team-high 20 points over 33:16, but was a team-worst minus-27 in plus/minus and couldn't elevate his distribution efforts (2 assists, 5 turnovers) in the absence of Rondo. Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-24 shooting with 16 rebounds (he was plus-27 in plus/minus), while Jason Terry was the usual pest off the bench (four 3-pointers, 16 points).

TURNING POINT
The Celtics were within six with seven minutes to go in the second quarter, but Nowitzki scored 10 of the game's next 12 points, putting the Mavericks out front 37-23 with 4:46 to play in the first half. Boston hardly challenged again from there, trailing by 10 at the intermission, but Dallas soon led by 26 in the second half.

DIRK PASSES THE CHIEF
During Monday's game, Nowitzki leapfrogged Celtics legend Robert Parish (23,328 points) for 20th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Nowitzki increased his career total to 23,354 with his offensive efforts on Monday. Next in Nowitzki's sights: Kevin Garnett, who sits at No. 19 with 23,719 career points.

BRADLEY SHINES FILLING IN FOR RONDO
If you're looking for one silver lining, it's Avery Bradley. The second-year guard, filling in for Rondo, who started his two-game suspension Monday night, chipped in 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He was a minus-16 overall and didn't do much to facilitate the offense, but he was the team's only real energy at times (throw Mickael Pietrus into that category as well) and tried to make things happen offensively, particularly with his improving jump shot.

WHAT IT MEANS
It's hard to get too worked up when the Celtics were playing the second night of a back-to-back without key personnel, but it doesn't take much of the sting out given just how helpless the Celtics have looked at times during this recent skid. The Mavericks didn't exactly blister the field (36 of 89, 40.4 percent), but second-chance opportunities helped negate Boston's own success in that category (the Celtics converted all six second-chance shot opportunities they had for 15 points; Dallas was 4 of 10 for 12 points). The Mavericks won the battle on the glass overall (51-44 in total rebounds) and had better ball movement (out-assisting the Celtics, 26-17). More importantly, they took care of the ball (10 turnovers leading to 13 points), while Boston did not (17 turnovers for 25 points). The Celtics get a day to lick their wounds before closing out the first half of the season Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

3-on-3: Celtics vs. Mavs (Game 31 of 66)

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
12:12
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Glenn James/Getty ImagesThe Celtics will likely be without the services of Kevin Garnett against the Mavericks.
Things don't get any easier for the struggling Boston Celtics (15-15, 4-7 away) -- losers of three straight and five of six -- as they play the second night of a back-to-back agains the Dallas Mavericks (20-12, 12-5 home) on Monday night at American Airlines Center (8 p.m., TNT). To preview the matchup, we go 3-on-3 with ESPN Boston's Greg Payne and CelticsHub's Brian Robb.



1. What worries you most about this game against the Dallas Mavericks?


Payne: Dallas' defense and overall talent level. The Celtics' defense, overall, this season, has been very good, but Dallas has so many offensive weapons and they have great length throughout their whole roster. Given the Celtics' offensive struggles lately, I'm worried about Dallas just smothering them on the defensive end.

Robb: Before yesterday, Dallas had been playing extremely well as of late, rolling off five straight wins over quality opponents. With a refreshed Dirk Nowitzki wreaking havoc on defenses already and the Celtics ill-equipped to stop him without the services of Kevin Garnett, this back-to-back could get ugly in a hurry.

Forsberg: Dallas opponents are shooting a league-worst 41.6 percent from the floor and average a mere 91.2 points per game. For a Boston team struggling to generate any sort of rhythm on offense at the moment, that's an incredibly daunting obstacle on the second night of a back-to-back. Opponents have shown an ability to get to the free throw line against the Mavericks, but that's clearly not one of jumper-happy Boston's strengths at the moment. The Celtics need to be super aggressive this evening if they're going to score enough to hang around against a team with this many weapons.

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3-on-3: Celtics vs. Mavericks (Game 9 of 66)

January, 11, 2012
1/11/12
11:00
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Mark L. Baer/US PresswireThe Celtics don't want to watch Jason Terry and the Mavericks celebrate again.
After a four-day vacation from game action, the Boston Celtics (4-4, 3-1 home) launch into a three-game-in-four-night stretch by hosting the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks (5-5, 1-3 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (8 p.m., ESPN). Let's preview the battle with a game of 3-on-3 with ESPN Boston's Greg Payne and CelticsHub's Brian Robb.



1. From afar, what's wrong with Dallas so far this season?


Payne: I think the losses of Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea are affecting Dallas the most right now. Chandler is a far better defensive center than Brendan Haywood and Barea was that spark plug-type of player who Dallas seems to be missing right now. In addition, the Lamar Odom experiment hasn't exactly gone according to plan. In short, Dallas doesn't have the same team mojo that it possessed last season.

Robb: Personnel and continuity. Whenever you remove two key components of one's rotation, and one of them is the key to your interior defense, you're bound to run into trouble. Dallas did well with their salary situation to bring in replacements for Chandler, Barea and Co., but ultimately they downgraded in personnel. Combine that with the challenge of integrating new players into their system in a short training camp and an early-season slide in the competitive Western Conference is understandable. Make no mistake, the Mavs have the talent to be a top-four playoff team in the West once everyone gets comfortable, but an early drop-off from last season shouldn't surprise anyone.

Forsberg: Don't forget the bull's-eye. Completely agree with you guys on the personnel issues, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers was quick to point out how difficult it can be for defending champions because, regardless of early-season struggles, teams get up for you each and every night. As Rivers perfectly put it, the opposition brings "championship intensity." He then laughed, because the Celtics know that feeling all too well. The Mavericks will figure it out, but every night is going to be a grind because of that crown.

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Finals connection: Carlisle and C's

May, 27, 2011
5/27/11
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Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty ImagesDallas coach Rick Carlisle played a small role on Boston's 1986 title team.
It's not as if most Celtics fans need another reason to root against the Heat in the NBA Finals, but here's a motive to cheer for the Mavericks if you're looking for a Boston connection: Rick Carlisle.

Carlisle was part of the Celtics' 1986 title team (he averaged 2.6 points per game while appearing in 77 contests during the regular season and logged 54 playoff minutes). With a Dallas triumph in this year's Finals, Carlisle would become only the 11th person to win an NBA title as a player and coach.

What's more, he'll go down as one of the few to have worn the No. 34 jersey in Boston now that Paul Pierce has guaranteed it will head to the rafters once his playing days are over. The full list of No. 34s: Clyde Lovellette, 1964; Bevo Nordmann, 1965; Jim Ard, 1975-1978; Dennis Awtrey, 1979; Carlisle 1985-87; Kevin Gamble 1989-94; Xavier McDaniel 1995; Doug Smith 1996; Frank Brickowski 1997; Reggie Hanson 1998; Pierce 1999-present.

Kicking themselves?

May, 26, 2011
5/26/11
11:11
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Gary Dineen/NBAE/GettySasha Pavlovic played 10 games for the Mavericks this season.
The Dallas Mavericks secured their place in the NBA Finals Wednesday evening by eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat can do the same on Thursday night with a win over the Chicago Bulls. Which, only naturally, probably has a few guys who spent the year in green wondering if they might still be playing if things had played out a little differently.

Start with Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal, who last summer narrowed his three finalists to Boston, Dallas, and Denver. It was the Celtics' offer of their full mid-level exception that helped lure O'Neal to Boston. Which is a bit ironic because the Mavericks never used their own mid-level exception during the offseason and, when Corey Brewer landed on the buyout scrapheap, it was that exception that allowed them to outbid the likes of Boston to obtain his services for the final stretch of the season.

Which might have also played a part in Sasha Pavlovic landing in Boston. Pavlovic had signed two 10-day contracts with the Mavericks back in January, appearing in 10 games, but the team never committed to signing him for the rest of the season. Reports indicated that Pavlovic was on Dallas' radar if they couldn't obtain Brewer. Instead, it was the Celtics inking Pavlovic almost immediately after Brewer made his decision to go to the Mavericks.

Both Troy Murphy and Carlos Arroyo have to be watching the Heat while wondering what could have been. After being traded to, and then released by, the Golden State Warriors in February, Murphy had his choice of suitors and it was the Celtics and Heat that engaged in a tug-of-war with Boston ultimately prevailing. Previously, Miami jettisoned Arroyo with the opportunity to ink Mike Bibby, this after Arroyo had fallen out of favor despite starting 42 games with the Heat this season.

Garnett avoids punishment; gets flagrant

February, 5, 2011
2/05/11
7:00
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ESPN ScreenshotKevin Garnett brushed away the arm of referee Eric Lewis during Friday's loss to Dallas.
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett avoided a fine or suspension from the NBA despite making contact with a game official during Friday's 101-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Garnett did, however, have a second-quarter flagrant assigned, according to an NBA spokesman.

The flagrant foul occurred with 2:41 to play in the second quarter. No infraction was called on the play (a Shawn Marion rebound of a Garnett miss), but video review led to the assignment of a flagrant. It is Garnett's first flagrant foul of the season.

A potential fine or suspension could have been levied for an incident that occurred with 7:43 to play in the third quarter. Dallas guard J.J. Barea corralled Garnett and gave a hard foul to prevent an easy layup in transition. The momentum carried the two players beneath the basket, where Garnett delivered a one-handed shove to the tangled Barea.

As Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler approached, both Celtics guard Rajon Rondo and referee Eric Lewis got in the middle. As Lewis appeared to sternly warn Garnett, Boston's forward began to turn away before swatting the referee's left arm away from his body.

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Rondo at home on the (mid-)range

February, 5, 2011
2/05/11
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Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo takes a jumper over Jason Kidd Saturday night.
BOSTON -- The Celtics were clinging to a three-point lead over the Dallas Mavericks with just over a minute to play Friday when Rajon Rondo pulled up for a 17-foot jump shot from the left side that had potential to seal a Boston victory.

Instead, it found iron and the Celtics faltered down the stretch, falling 101-97.

That Rondo missed the shot might not be a surprise to some, since it's been well documented that free throw and jump shooting have been the All-Star point guard's biggest weaknesses ever since he entered the NBA. But those who weren't shocked by the miss also shouldn't be shocked that he attempted the shot in the first place, since Rondo is indeed taking -- and making -- more mid-range jump shots this season than he ever has in his entire career.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksK. Humphries 0.9