No shock that the Celtics are a different team without Garnett. What’s a little surprising is that they haven’t figured out how to really learn from last year’s playoff series against the Bulls and pull together consistently when he isn’t on the floor. Boston can’t count on a healthy Garnett these days as much as they’d like to, but this is still a team that can compete for a title with the pieces they have right now.
On Monday, 25-13 Dallas (dealing with a two-game skid of their own) comes to town looking to get back on track. Coming off a tough loss to the Lakers, the Mavericks will be looking to prove they are among the elite teams in the league, and they’ll take a statement game against the Celtics (with or without KG) as a good first step.
While these two teams have identical points for per game at about 100.5, Dallas gives up more than 4-points a game more than the Celtics. And while it won’t be easy to put the clamps on Dirk (averaging 25 a game) or Kidd (averaging almost 9 assists a game – he’s still got it), you can bet that will be a main focus on a team struggling to compensate for the temporary loss of offense.
Both teams are also mired in a .500 “slump” over their last 10, so momentum isn’t on anyone’s side of the fence. I think, taking that into account, and even though Boston is at home, at the moment the Mavericks just have more to play for. It’s a little early to be thinking about the playoffs, but Boston knows at the moment it has one of the top 4 seeds well in hand (meaning home-court advantage), while Dallas (currently in the second seed), has four teams literally breathing down its neck, and only 4 games between its current seed and watching the playoffs from home. It’ll be like that out West the entire rest of the way. That can wear a team down, but i’ll also keep them in survivor mode when it matters most.
This game will either be a pick ‘em or a tiny, 2-point edge to the home team according to many of the best online sportsbooks. My pick either way is on Dallas, however. Not only did Boston just lose miserably to Chicago, but they only mustered 83 points in the process. Yes, the Bulls are a stronger defensive team than Dallas, but if Boston can’t find a way to crack at least 95 points against the Mavs, they don’t have a prayer here. Bet the Mavs.