Celtics-Mavs preview: Slowing Mayo the priority

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Celtics-Mavs preview: Slowing Mayo the priority

BOSTON O.J. Mayo will be in the Garden tonight, but not in the uniform that the Celtics once hoped he would wear.

Mayo was a coveted player by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in recent years, going so far as to have a deal nearly in place last spring that would have sent Ray Allen to Memphis in exchange for Mayo.

The deal fell apart at the last minute, resulting in Allen finishing up the season in Boston and moving on to Miami, while Mayo has since left the Grizzlies and now plays for the Dallas Mavericks.

With Dirk Nowitzki (right knee surgery) still out, Mayo has become the man for the Mavs this season. And as the Celtics gear up for tonight's matchup, limiting Mayo's impact has to be at or near the top of Boston's wish list.

The fifth-year guard comes into tonight's game as the league's 10th-leading scorer, averaging a career-high 20.8 points per game this season.

"He's getting his points in a variety of different ways," his coach Rick Carlisle, told CSNNE.com. "He's a guy that's becoming a go-to guy for us. I knew he was going to be a good player, but he has exceeded expectations at this point."

How the Celtics handle Mayo will be one of the keys to focus on tonight. Here are some others as the C's try to build off a strong showing last week against Philadelphia.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Dallas wants to get into an uptempo game that will generate at least 100 points for them. When they reach triple digits scoring this season, they're 8-1.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Kaman. These are the kind of games when Garnett's ability to stretch the floor from the center position should pay huge dividends for the Celtics.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has a mismatch most nights, but Derek Fisher presents a different kind of challenge. He doesn't have the athleticism to hold his own against Rondo, but he is a crafty veteran who knows how to play the game at the highest levels and be successful with it.

STAT TO TRACK: Bench scoring has picked up lately for Boston, a trend they will need to continue against a Mavs team that gets a lot of point production from its second unit. Dallas' bench averages 42 points per game which ranks third in the league among bench units while the Celtics are just 20th with a 30.3 points per game average from their backups.

Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

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Kevin Durant's future a mystery as OKC collapses

OAKLAND, Calif. - As Stephen Curry dribbled out the clock in a raucous Oracle Arena, Kevin Durant could only stand and watch.

The Golden State Warriors are heading back to the NBA Finals, while Durant's future in Oklahoma City is much less certain.

Two nights after blowing an opportunity to close out the defending champion Warriors at home, the Thunder got sent home for the summer when they lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals 96-88 on Monday night.

Instead of becoming known as the team that knocked off the Warriors after their record-setting 73-win regular season, the Thunder will be remembered for a playoff collapse. They became just the 10th NBA team to lose a playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead and now head into an uncertain offseason with Durant eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

If he does leave the only franchise he has played for in his nine-year career, he will do it having failed to deliver the championship to Oklahoma City. The closest the Thunder have gotten in Durant's tenure was when they lost the NBA Finals in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012.

They then lost in the second round the next season, in the conference finals in 2014 to San Antonio before missing the playoffs entirely because of an injury to Durant last year.

But under first-year coach Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City earned the third seed in the top-heavy Western Conference this season and then upset 67-win San Antonio in the second round. The Thunder followed that by winning three of the first four games against the Warriors, with a pair of lopsided wins at home.

But after losing Game 5 on the road, the Thunder blew an opportunity to eliminate the Warriors at home on Saturday night. Oklahoma City led by seven points with less than five minutes remaining but made only one basket and committed six turnovers down the stretch of a 108-101 loss that could haunt the franchise for years.

The Thunder responded on the road in Game 7 by taking a 13-point lead in the second quarter. But once Curry and Klay Thompson started hitting Oklahoma City with a flurry of 3-pointers, the Thunder had no answer. The Splash Brothers combined for 13 3-pointers as Golden State outscored Oklahoma City by 30 points from behind the line.

Oklahoma City's stars were no match. Russell Westbrook missed 14 of 21 from the field and shot just 36.8 percent in the three potential clinchers. Durant finished with 27 points but took only 10 shots in the first three quarters.

Durant did score seven straight points to cut an 11-point deficit to four with 1:40 remaining. But Serge Ibaka then fouled Curry on a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down, allowing Golden State to build the lead back to seven.

Durant then missed two shots and could only stare blankly when Curry ended Oklahoma City's season with a 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds left. Now the Thunder can only hope it doesn't end Durant's tenure in Oklahoma City as well.