There's no question that the Boston Celtics are legitimate contenders for the NBA title. The Dallas Mavericks know they have work to do to earn such consideration.
The Celtics look for their sixth straight win Monday night and fourth in a row at Dallas as they try to start 7-1 or better for the fourth straight season.
Since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Boston (6-1) in 2007, the Celtics have gotten off to fast starts. They opened 8-0 three seasons ago when they won the title and began 8-1 each of the last two seasons.
"The Celtics have been together for awhile," Dallas center Tyson Chandler said. "They've played at the highest level and that's what we're trying to accomplish. We definitely need to come in focused for that game and treat it as big as it's gonna be."
The addition of Garnett and Allen has certainly changed the Celtics' fortunes at Dallas (3-2). Boston had dropped seven straight visits before winning the last three, with Allen averaging 20.7 points in those games.
Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 29.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in the defeats. He shot 47.8 percent in the three games, but his teammates combined to shoot 39.3 percent.
Jason Terry and Jason Kidd played in two of those meetings. Terry shot 37.5 percent in those games while Kidd connected at 31.3 percent.
The Celtics used a similar approach to stop a team with one superstar scorer in Sunday's 92-83 win at Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant scored a game-high 34 points, but Boston limited the rest of the Thunder to 39.6 percent shooting.
Boston also got a huge lift from its bench, which combined for 33 points and helped build a 17-point advantage in the fourth quarter after a 22-point lead was cut to six.
"That whole group, they were absolutely terrific. They won the game for us," coach Doc Rivers said. "They went from a six- to a (17-) point lead."
"We've just got to continue to give our starters a lift off the bench and continue to do what we've been doing, which is playing together and having fun," Robinson said.
Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jermaine O'Neal all logged 32 minutes or fewer, which could keep Boston fresh for this back-to-back set. Center Shaquille O'Neal missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee, but could return.
Dallas began a stretch of 15 home games over a 22-game span with Saturday's 103-92 home loss to Denver. Terry scored 26 points and Nowitzki added 23 for the Mavs, who had a season-low 12 assists.
"We've got a tough game coming up on Monday against Boston," forward Shawn Marion said. "They're playing well, too. I know it's early, but we've got to control certain things on the floor. We've got to help each other and get it done."