The teams with the best and worst records in the NBA will meet Monday night when the Boston Celtics put their 15-game winning streak on the line at the Dallas Mavericks. The Celtics’ run is the fifth-longest in franchise history - four shy of matching the record set in 2008-09 - but they’ve had to come from behind in many of their recent victories, including Saturday’s 110-99 triumph in Atlanta.
“I think the biggest thing is that we can’t keep digging these holes,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “We need to put an emphasis on playing with pace and getting the ball to the other side of the floor.” Boston has trailed at halftime in four of its last five contests and in the fifth - Tuesday at Brooklyn - it was tied at the break. The Mavericks have been easy pickings for most teams this season but turned the tables on Milwaukee on Saturday with a shocking 111-79 triumph. Wesley Matthews scored 22 points and led the team’s best 3-point shooting effort of the season (19-for-38) with a 6-for-8 performance.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBCS Boston, FS Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (15-2): Kyrie Irving has been a galvanizing force for Boston but quietly had some shooting woes and entered Atlanta at a career-low 42.9 percent from the floor and 31.9 percent from long range. In his third game wearing a mask to protect facial fractures, he reversed that trend in a significant way by going 10-for-12 overall and 5-for-6 from beyond the arc en route to 30 points, just a bit better than Jaylen Brown’s career-high 27. “I could see just a little bit more of the crowd tonight,” Irving told the media. “The eye holes were a little bit bigger. The basket looked a little bit better. I was told to kind of keep it on, so it was a better fit.”
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (3-14): Dallas snapped a four-game losing streak that included a 24-point home loss to Minnesota on Friday and seemed to really need a cakewalk like the one that came one night later. “It rejuvenates (the locker room),” Matthews told reporters. “The aches don’t hurt as much. You feel better about everything you’ve done. You don’t need moral victories, you’ve got the real one.” Dwight Powell came off the bench to tie a career high with 13 rebounds to help the Mavericks win the battle of the boards 49-38.
1. Brown is averaging 24.5 points and has one total turnover in the last two contests.
2. Mavericks PF Dirk Nowitzki needs 14 rebounds to become the 29th player in NBA history with 11,000.
3. Boston swept two meetings last season, winning 111-98 in Dallas on Feb. 13.
PREDICTION: Celtics 108, Mavericks 101