Jayson Tatum via Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] for NBA on ESPN

The latter half of the NBA on ESPN features a couple of the best teams in each conference. However, one of these teams will be without their best player for the NBA on ESPN matchup.

When and Where

Tipping off at 9:30 PM EST, the Mavs will host the Boston Celtics on ESPN. The Mavs enter the game with a record of 18-8 (8-6 at home) and the Celtics enter with a record of 17-7 (7-6 on the road). 

Why We’re Watching

A shocker to a lot of people, but early on in this NBA season this game is looking like a potential Finals encounter. With neither team at full health, this will be a watered-down version of the game we anticipated. Without Luka Doncic and Marcus Smart, this game is missing the potential MVP and the Celtics best defender. That’s not all though as both Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward are entering the game with injuries of their own. Even though the Celtics have more bodies banged up, the Mavs are missing the best player that would have taken the court.

Looking at the team stats, we can see that both teams are fairly equal aside for the Mavs playing at a faster pace. This obviously means that Mavs games result in higher scores for themselves and their opposition. So, where does that leave us for tonight’s game? Despite being the home team, I see the Mavs being forced to play the Celtics style of basketball. This is due to Celtics having not played since last week, allowing ample time to gameplan for this Doncic-less Mavs squad. We saw Kristaps Porzingis step up in the absence of point guard so far, but he’ll be treated as if he were still on the Knicks tonight. By this, I mean that Porzingis will be game-planned for as he is the unquestioned go-to guy on the offensive end. He’ll still get his points and other stats because of Enes Kanter guarding him at times, but I don’t believe it will be enough to once again carry this Dallas team.

Speaking of guys that may guard Porzingis, the Celtics have recalled Tacko Fall from the G-League! Although he is unlikely to see major minutes or meaningful minutes for that matter, Fall is always going to draw the attention of even the most casual of basketball fans. If we’re lucky, we may even see a Tacko Fall vs. Boban Marjaonvic battle in the paint. Two of the tallest NBA players of all time likely will sit on the bench throughout this entire game, but, there’s at least a chance we see them play. 

As for guys that will see meaningful minutes, Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum are going to battle Porzingis for most points by an individual player tonight. As it’s looking more and more like Gordon Hayward will sit this game out, Jaylon Brown will have to continue to have his career year for the Celtics to remain competitive. Seeing that he has been so productive from Day 1 of this season, Brown gives the Celtics a clear advantage in the backcourt. Paired with Walker, the Celtics have a more consistent backcourt (for starters) compared to the Mavs. Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA… when he’s on his game. TMJ has averaged 13.3 points per game this month but has seen his totals range from 2 points to 29 points halfway through December. With Luka out for this game, Jalen Brunson, Delon Wright, and Seth Curry will see upticks in minutes but that doesn’t necessarily mean upticks in productivity. Of the 3, Curry is the best scoring option and the Mavs will need him to do so tonight.

Betting Done Quick

Due to the Luka injury, the Celtics are currently -2.0 (-110) favorites. According to actionnetwork.com, a heavy majority of the money bet on this game is for the Celtics to cover the spread. As much as it pains to tail the public consensus, I like the Celtics to cover considering they haven’t played a game since December 12th and the Mavs played in Milwaukee on Monday.


Celtics: 112

Mavs: 108

Leading Scorer: Kemba Walker

Best Fantasy Value: Seth Curry


Who do you think wins tonight in the latter half of NBA on ESPN action? Will the Mavs stay hot after defeating the Bucks without Luka earlier this week? Let me know in the comments below! Also, check out the shop and other content by clicking here. Oh, and there’s also a giveaway going on.

-Mitchell Seefeldt

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