Both the Boston Celtics (36-31) and Dallas Mavericks (32-36) are looking to rebound from losses in their last games. The two teams with aging cores will meet on Friday night in Dallas, TX.
The Celtics got Kevin Garnett back from a battle with the flu against the New Orleans Hornets, but they lost another close one.
Anthony Davis' last-second tip-in gave the Hornets an 87-86 win, and sent Boston to their second-straight loss.
The Mavericks were blown away 113-96 by the Brooklyn Nets behind a combined 69 points from Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.
The team is still just 3.5 games out of the eighth playoff spot. But they will need to string some wins together to contend for one of the last two spots with the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers.
These two teams played a thrilling double-overtime affair in their first meeting in December at the TD Garden arena. Boston rode Paul Pierce's 34-point performance to victory.
These two teams look a lot different now than they did then. Dirk Nowitzki hadn't returned to the Mavs lineup yet, and Rajon Rondo was still healthy for the C's.
The Celtics are trying to maintain playoff position and the Mavs are looking to make a late run to reach the second season.
It should be another exciting game. Here's how you can catch the action, as well as some deeper analysis and my prediction.
When: Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX.
TV: Local - Fox Sports Southwest in Dallas and Comcast Northeast in Boston, also available on NBA League Pass
Live Stream: League Pass
The Celtics' injury situation is largely unchanged from the past month or so, but the Mavericks may be without Shawn Marion, per CBSSports.com.
- Roddy Beaubois - PG - Hand - Out for season.
- Shawn Marion - PF - Calf - Questionable for March 22 vs. Boston.
- Jared Sullinger - PF - Back - Out for season.
- Rajon Rondo - PG - Knee - Likely out for season.
Playing without Marion will impact the way the Mavs defend Pierce, as the Matrix would normally get that assignment.
PG - Mike James
SG - O.J. Mayo
SF - Jae Crowder
PF - Dirk Nowitzki
C - Chris Kaman
PG - Avery Bradley
SG - Courtney Lee
SF - Paul Pierce
PF - Brandon Bass
C - Kevin Garnett
Are the Celtics Better Without Rondo and Will the Mavericks Ever Get to Shave Their Beards?
Rondo went down with a torn ACL on Jan 25. The Celtics were 20-23 when their star point guard was injured, but they are 16-8 in his absence.
Though they have lost their last two games, this team has proven to be a formidable group without Rondo on the floor. This will be their 25th game without him, and the success speaks for itself.
It seems clear this group is better without the league's top assist man.
The slumping Chicago Bulls are there for the C's to surpass in the Eastern Conference standings. Boston is just a half game behind the Bulls for the sixth playoff spot.
However, they need to put some wins together to capitalize on the Bulls' recent struggles.
Some of the Mavericks' players agreed to refrain from shaving their beards until they reach the .500 mark this season, per Yahoo! Sports. With only 14 games remaining, they are four games under the goal.
The remaining schedule isn't exactly favorable. Though this game will be the second of six-straight home games, the Mavs only have five games remaining against non-playoff teams.
Evening out their record by season's end isn't looking too good right now.
Dirk Nowitzki Averages More Points Against the Celtics Than Any Other Team
Many are pining for Nowitzki to take more shots. He took just 10 in the Mavs' loss to the Nets on Wednesday. Perhaps Friday night is the night he puts up huge offensive numbers.
If it happens against the Celtics, it wouldn't be out of the norm for Dirk. He averages 26.9 points per game against them in his career, per Basketball-Reference.com, which is his highest-scoring average against any NBA team.
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett
If the Mavs hope to make a late run, they need Nowitzki to be a special player again. He's shown flashes, but he hasn't consistently carried this team.
Who will score the most points?
Against the Celtics, Bass and possibly Garnett in late-game situations will be charged with keeping the Mavs' star under control. Nowitzki has the length advantage over Bass, and if he does indeed get hot, you can bet KG will take over the duties of guarding him.
If Nowitzki is having one of his better games, this one will be fun.
I'm taking the Mavericks in another thriller. This one may reach overtime as well, but I look for Nowitzki to play big and have the ball in his hands late with a chance to impact the bottom line.
I predict the Mavericks win 105-103.