In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks  reached the NBA finals . In 2007, they won 67 games and had the league’s MVP in Dirk Nowitzki . Those two seasons were the best in the 30-year history of the franchise and both ended in massive disappointment. The Mavs lost the finals despite winning the first two games of the series and they lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors  the following season in what still ranks as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.
Since then the Mavericks have been good, winning over 50 games each season, but never great. Their best player is 32, their point guard is 37 and six of their eight rotation players are over 30.
They’ll be good again this year. Nowitzki and Jason Kidd  can still play and Jason Terry  can still score, but their success ultimately depends on whether the rest of the supporting cast can regain some of its past glory.
In the past year-plus, the Mavs have acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood , Tyson Chandler  and Shawn Marion . All four have seen better days, but how much they have left holds the key to the Mavs season because their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, had a pin inserted into his broken foot and is out indefinitely.
The Mavericks are still formidable and as the second night of yet another back-to-back, they pose a serious challenge for the Celtics . The C’s have won five straight, including an impressive win over the Thunder Sunday night. This is also their fifth game in seven nights before they get a two-day break and a return date with the Heat on Thursday.
OFFENSIVE RATING: 105.4 (NBA rank: 17th)
DEFENSIVE RATING: 98.8 (3rd)
PACE: 91.6 (24th)
OFFENSIVE RATING: 104.0 (20th)
DEFENSIVE RATING: 99.7 (5th)
PACE: 93.0 (20th)
Probable Starters: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler
Injuries: Roddy Beaubois (Foot, out)
KEY MATCHUP: Kevin Garnett vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Of all the matchups Garnett has had throughout his career, Nowitzki has to rank alongside Tim Duncan  as one of the best. Their styles are a perfect compliment to each other because few big men have ever defended the perimeter better than Garnett. Nowitzki is still a fantastic player, averaging over 25 points and 9 rebounds early in the season.
KEY NUMBER: Celtics field goal percentage
The Mavs have held teams to just 39 percent shooting in their five games. The Celtics rank near the top of the NBA at 49 percent. If they can shoot somewhere in the middle — 45 percent or better — they’ll have a good chance at getting out Dallas with a win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
In addition to Nowitzki and Garnett, the Rajon Rondo-Jason Kidd matchup is always good theater and there’s no telling how many miles Ray Allen and Jason Terry will run chasing each over all the court. This is another big test for the Celtics who are slowly building momentum. The Heat await on Thursday, but this is a solid bout before the main event.