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.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

WATCH: Celtics vs. Sixers

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the 76ers in Philadelphia. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App.  Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”