Celtics-Mavs preview: A challenge in Dallas


The final minute of Boston’s 119-117 win at Washington on Saturday was odd for a lot of reasons, with the most significant being the outcome.

It was the first time this season after coming up short the first five times, that Boston won a game decided by three points or less.

I guess sixth time’s the charm, huh?

It was the kind of confidence-booster that the Celtics needed as they prepare for what will be a challenging game at Dallas tonight.

Boston (22-19) comes into the game riding a three-game winning streak, but success has been hard to come by for the Celtics when facing the Mavericks who have won each of their last six matchups.

And a seventh straight win for Dallas would equal the longest winning streak the Mavericks have ever had against the Celtics.

The three straight wins won’t do anything for Boston in terms of added confidence coming into this game.

But the way they won Saturday night at Washington, a game filled with a slew of late-game miscues, missteps and mayhem on Boston’s part, does give them a better sense of what they can do down the stretch even when things don’t go quite as planned.

“The most important thing was sticking together,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said after the win. “The technical foul (against Jae Crowder), them getting free throws (John Wall was fouled on a 3-point attempt) … we could have easily fallen apart.  We stuck together and got the win. That’s really important for us.”

Winning is vital for a Celtics team that has had more than its share of disappointing losses to teams that frankly, they know they should have beaten.

But with each victory, there’s plenty of flaws in their play for head coach Brad Stevens to be cautiously optimistic going forward.

Even though Boston’s win at Washington had a thrilling down-to-the-wire finish, Stevens was far from thrilled with his team’s overall play.

“We played well enough to win,” he said. “But we did some things we have to do better.”

Boston’s victory was “sealed” when John Wall went coast-to-coast in less than four seconds, got a clean lay-up attempt following Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley colliding into one another. That created a fairly open lane to the basket for Wall who had a lay-up attempt that rimmed in and out as time expired.

“We were fortunate John Wall missed that,” Stevens said.

But they can’t count on luck tonight, not against a Dallas team that has had their number in recent years.

The Celtics will do their best to maintain an “in the moment” mentality towards tonight’s game and this upcoming stretch of the season, an approach they say has been instrumental to them weathering the ups and downs of this season.

But the importance of this part of the season, this particular game, is not lost on the players.

They realize that every game has to be treated as a big one not only because it’s the one before them, but also because they have lost more than a few that fall under the “we gave that one away” umbrella.

“We gotta start getting greedy when it comes to winning,” Amir Johnson told “We’ve let too many get away as it is.”

Losing games you’re not supposed to happens to all teams during the course of an 82-game season, but it takes on greater significance when you are built the way Boston is, a team with very little margin for dropping winnable games.

At some point Boston has to find a way to steal a few back that on paper at least, appear to be losses.

Playing on the road, at Dallas, a place where Boston hasn’t won since 2010 … that qualifies.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, the Celtics come into tonight’s game a confident bunch in part because of how they handled all the adversity down the stretch in  Saturday’s game and still managed to come away with a win.

“We were definitely a “next play” team,” Boston’s Isaiah Thomas told reporters following Saturday’s win. “Not worrying about the previous play or what’s in the past. We have to build on that, and I’m glad we started this (three-game road trip) off on a good note.”


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