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Celtics vs. Mavericks Odds & Picks: Dallas in for High-Scoring Game Against Boston (February 23)

Celtics vs. Mavericks Odds & Picks: Dallas in for High-Scoring Game Against Boston (February 23) article feature image

Glenn James/Getty Images.
Pictured: Luka Doncic

  • The Mavericks and Celtics meet on Tuesday night in a game the betting market sees as nearly a toss-up.
  • Brandon Anderson explains why he likes the Mavs to at least find some offense, even if they can't limit Boston on the other end.
  • Get his full breakdown of Mavericks vs. Celtics below:

Celtics vs. Mavericks Odds

Celtics Odds -1 
Mavericks Odds +1 
Moneyline -116/-102 
Over/Under 224.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Tuesday morning and via PointsBet.

The Celtics and Mavericks meet Tuesday night in a TNT showdown between two teams that are just trying to make it to the All-Star break alive.

Neither team has had anything close to the season it imagined thus far. Boston and Dallas were two of the chic sleepers heading into each season. These teams would’ve been among the most popular picks to make a deep playoff run outside of the usual suspect contenders, but instead, each one has been remarkably average.

The Celtics sit at 15-15 and have floated around .500 for much of the season. And that’s about right. Boston hasn’t been bad, but the Celtics certainly haven’t been good either. That’s the case for the Mavericks too, who are 13-15 right now. Both teams have been derailed by injuries and health protocol absences all season, and the Celtics are still missing Marcus Smart.

Neither of these teams has lived up to expectations, but one of them will get a win here either way. So which one will it be?

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have been remarkably average thus far. They’re just not particularly good. Boston looks like a lock to have two deserving All-Stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, but there’s very little else that’s positive on this roster right now.

Marcus Smart is out through at least the All-Star break, and Kemba Walker has been miserable this season. His numbers are down to just 17 points and 4.1 assists per game, and he’s making under 40% of his shots inside the arc. Walker missed the beginning of the season injured and doesn’t look back to full health yet, and it’s a always a serious concern when a small guard has nagging injuries as he hits his 30s. Boston just rid itself of one big contract for an aging former star in Al Horford, and it’s starting to feel like Walker might be next in line.

Outside of those four presumed stars, the rest of this roster was always full of question marks. Boston has never found that big man to roam the middle, and the bench has been a serious disappointment this year. There are role men built to play defense but not do much with the ball, and that’s just not enough for this team. The Celtics have two star wings getting precious little help.

The offense has not been awesome. Boston has lacked playmaking with Kemba struggling, and they’re not getting great shots. The Celtics are below league average in both free-throw and 3-point attempt rate, relying on far too many of those pull-up Tatum and Kemba iso jumpers. Boston’s one real strength on offense has been a great offensive rebounding rate. That leads to some easy buckets, but it’s also hurting Boston’s ability to get back and set up the defense.

The defense has been especially disappointing for a Brad Stevens squad, and Smart’s absence certainly doesn’t help there. Boston fouls a ton, and they allow opponents to make 54% of their twos, ranking in the bottom quarter of the league. Boston’s traditional 3-point defense has remained strong after a slow start, so they still don’t let teams beat them from behind the arc but give up way too many easy points when opponents drive the ball and get into the paint, drawing fouls and finding easy looks at the rim.

That’s very unlike a normal Stevens team, but it’s where this roster is. Daniel Theis can only do so much, and Tristan Thompson has been a disappointment. This team clearly should’ve taken on Myles Turner when it could’ve, but that ship has sailed. What Boston is left with is the same thing they’ve had all season — two star wings who need heroics to keep this team in the game and more heroics to win close games late. And right now, Tatum and Brown are doing just enough to get by.

Dallas Mavericks

As bleak as that picture of the Celtics sounds, at least Boston plays in the East where there’s a real margin for error. Dallas has been even worse than Boston, and the Mavs have far less margin in the loaded West. The Mavericks entered Monday with a -1.8 Net Rating, good for just #21 in the NBA per Basketball Reference.

The Mavs lost six in a row at the end of January, but they were playing much better before the Texas weather interrupted their season. Dallas has won five of seven games since that losing stretch, though four of those wins have been by six points or fewer. For once, Dallas is actually winning close games, but they have typically been one of the worst teams in the league in close games.

Dallas has a similar problem to Boston. Their one superstar has been awesome as expected, but Luka Doncic is getting precious little help. Kristaps Porzingis looks more like a role player than a second star, and the rest of the roster is a bunch of guys meant to play small complementary roles. Like Boston’s depth and bench, they’re guys that were never meant to be able to do much more. Both of these teams need their stars to shine.

Dallas has played horrible defense over the past six weeks, ranking at or near the bottom of the league in many metrics. The Mavs were purposeful to add length and defense this offseason with players like Josh Richardson, but that hasn’t paid off at all. Dallas doesn’t do much to protect the rim, or anything else for that matter. Right now, they’re relying on the offense to find enough points to outscore the opponent’s big number.

Lately, that’s been working. Dallas is still nowhere near last season’s historically great offense, but it’s finally in the top 10 in Basketball Reference’s Offensive Rating. Unlike Boston, Dallas has a far better shot profile. They rank in the top seven in both free-throw and 3-point attempt rate, though they’re still only 25th in the league as of Monday on 3-point percentage at 35%. Doncic is running the show and creating plenty of good looks for his teammates, but they’re not finishing them anywhere near as well as last season.

There’s one other key stat that could play in Dallas’s favor here. The Mavs love to bomb from deep, but they’re really efficient when they do take shots inside the arc. Dallas doesn’t take many twos, but they hit over 55% of them, ranking fourth in the NBA. If the Mavs sit back and bomb threes against a defense that always rates well against 3-pointers, they may struggle, but if Doncic aggressively drives and looks for cutters at the rim, Dallas has the opportunity to rack up free throws and lots of easy buckets in the paint.

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Celtics-Mavericks Pick

Both of these teams are playing one game of a back-to-back. It’s the first of two for Boston, while Dallas will play this one night after a game against the Grizzlies. The Mavericks hadn’t played since Valentine’s Day before that, thanks to all the weather problems in Texas, and the team hasn’t left Dallas since February 3, so the team should still be fairly rested and ready.

That week off could do wonders for a team that had been out of sync all season with so many absences. Dallas is finally whole now, so this unexpected week without games could give them a chance to reset and get back on track. I avoided playing the Mavs against Memphis for potential rust issues, but I like them in this spot against a struggling opponent.

The key mismatch here is Dallas’ efficient 2-point scoring against a defense that has struggled inside the arc. I expect a big game from Doncic. He should be able to draw plenty of fouls and free throws, and he should also have plenty of assist opportunities as long as this team doesn’t settle for too many threes.

With both of these teams grinding, it won’t be a surprise to see this game close late. That’s been the m.o. for both of these teams for much of the season. I like Dallas better overall in the matchup but am hesitant to play a Mavs cover here because they struggle so much in close late games while Boston is typically good there.

Instead, I’ll play the Mavs team over. I expect Dallas to be find plenty of scoring in this one. Maybe they’ll give up plenty of points too and end up in a shootout, but with the Dallas team over, I don’t have to worry about that side of things.

I’ll play the Mavs over up to 113.5.

Pick: Mavs team points over 112

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