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.

Kimbrel ninth-inning meltdown doesn’t alarm Farrell

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Kimbrel ninth-inning meltdown doesn’t alarm Farrell

NEW YORK -- John Farrell isn't necessarily alarmed by Craig Kimbrel's poor outing Wednesday night, viewing it as an aberration. But just the same, he'd like to get his closer into a game on the final weekend to flush the bad taste of Wednesday's ninth.

Until the clincher, Kimbrel had allowed just two hits in the previous 23 at-bats (.087) since Sept. 4. And since being re-instated from the DL on Aug. 1, Kimbrel was 13-for-13 in save opportunities with 32 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched and a .113 batting average against.

Kimbrel was brought into the game in the bottom of the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner before issuing three straight walks, the last of which forced in a run.

He threw 28 pitches and didn't record an out before being lifted in favor of Joe Kelly, who allowed Mark Teixeira's walk-off grand slam in a 5-3 Yankees victory.

"He was erratic, there's no doubt,” said Farrell. "The command was not there. The power was there, obviously, but the command was not. It turned into a situation where he gets to [almost] 30 pitches. Could we have let him go further, or could the decision have been made to leave him in the game? Sure

"But [Wednesday] night was more of an aberration. Certainly, since he's come off the DL, he's been stingy in those situations. That was a one-time outing last night [given the unusual circumstances].”

Farrell said it's "important” to get all of the Red Sox relievers into games before the season ends Sunday.

"How often, how high stress...the games will dictate that,'' Farrell said. "But yeah, it will be important to Craig back on the mound before we end, regardless of whether it's a save situation.”