Boston Celtics vs. Dallas Mavericks Preview and Pick – 28803

Boston Celtics (54-13) +3, 189 at Dallas Mavericks (44-24), 8 pm Eastern Thursday, TNT
by Zman of

Amidst the frenzy that is March Madness, the jockeying for position in the NBA’s regular-season race continues when the best team in the league, the Boston Celtics, goes in search of a sweep of the swing through Texas in Dallas vs. the Mavericks Thursday nite on TNT.

Early postings on NBA betting boards list Dallas as 3-point home chalk for Thursday’s game, with a total of 189. Also, the Mavs are listed at around -165 on various Vegas moneylines, with Boston getting +145 as road dogs.

Boston rallied from 22 points down to win at San Antonio Monday 93-91, then handed Houston its first loss in almost two months, 94-74 Tuesday night in H-Town. So the Celtics will be shooting Thursday night to do something that hasn’t been done (according to the Boston Globe and since the Sacramento Kings pulled it off in 2001; sweep the Texas three-step (San Antonio, Houston and Dallas).

The Mavericks, meanwhile, had won five games in a row until falling at home to the Lakers Tuesday 102-100. The Mavs nearly rallied all the way back from a 25-point deficit, but came up one desperation three-pointer short.

Boston is breezing its way toward the playoffs. The Celtics lead the Atlantic Division by 19 games, and the Eastern Conference by 5 games over the Detroit Pistons. With 15 regular-season games left to play, Boston’s magic number to clinch the top spot in the East is 10.

In the other corner, Dallas almost seems to be in trouble in the West, but is that really the case? The Mavericks are in fourth place in the Southwest Division, just 2 games out of first, and in seventh place in the West, a half-game back of sixth-place San Antonio, just 2 games out of first place, and two games from fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

In the first and only meeting so far this season between these two teams, the Celtics beat the Mavs 96-90 back in January in Boston. Before that, Dallas had beaten the Celts seven times in a row, but all that was before Boston picked up Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in off-season trades.

That first meeting back on Jan. 31 was a fairly tight defensive battle all the way, with neither team leading by more than 10 points at any time. And with the game tied at 90 in the waning moments, the Celtics scored the last six points of the game. KG missed that game for Boston, while Devin Harris (since traded for Jason Kidd) and Jerry Stackhouse both were out of action for Dallas. The Mavs shot 44% from the field that night, the Celtics 43%, which helped the game sneak under its total of 188.

This season, Boston is a very profitable 41-24 against the spread, and owns the best road record in the league at 25-8. The Celts are also 22-10 vs. the numbers away from home.

Meanwhile, Dallas is 30-34 against the spread this season, but owns the second-best home record in the league at 29-5. But the Mavs are only 15-15 vs. the numbers in Big D.

Boston leads the league in point differential at +10.5 per game, in scoring defense at 90 points PG and in FG defense at 42%. The Celtics are also shooting 48% from the field, 38% from 3-point range and 77% from the free-throw line, and rank 6th in the league in rebounding at +2.2 boards per game.

Dallas ranks 7th in the league in point differential at +4.9 per game, 5th in FG defense at 45% and 3rd in rebounding at +3.3 per game. The Mavs are also shooting 47% from the floor, 36% from long range and a league-leading 82% from the line.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at ranks Boston #1 at 99.6, Dallas 6th at 95.1. Sagarin’s current NBA home-court advantage figure is 3.5.

On the injury front, Ray Allen has missed the Celtics’ last three games with a bad ankle, and he’s listed as questionable for Thursday’s game.

The o/u is 30-36 in Boston games this season, which are averaging 196 total points, while the totals are 33-33 in Mavs games, which are also averaging 196 total points.

Zman’s Pick: Take Dallas minus the points.