Going into the All-Star break, the Celtics are staring at a serious stretch of games against four of the league’s top 10 teams. It starts tonight with the Mavericks, who just torched MSG behind Dirk Nowitzki’s 29 points and 11 rebounds. Orlando comes in on Sunday. Charlotte hosts the Celtics Monday. The Lakers come to Boston to wrap up the season series Thursday, then Miami comes in for another Sunday showcase, playing much better than they did in their first two encounters with the Celtics. After a crazy come-from-behind win in Dallas in Novermber, where Nowitzki’s haircut got the credit for the win, the Mavericks come to Boston with a chance to sweep the two-game season series.
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Records: Celtics (37-11), Mavericks (33-15)
Broadcast info: ESPN, CSN, WEEI
Officials: Bob Delaney, Curtis Blair, Eric Lewis
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Shaquille O’Neal (questionable, inflamed Achilles)
PG Jason Kidd
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Brian Cardinal
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Tyson Chandler
Dealing with Dirk: A sprained right knee sidelined Dirk Nowitzki and forced the Mavericks to play nine games without their franchise player. At one point, a team that won 12 straight earlier in the season lost six straight last month. Now, with Nowitzki back in the lineup, they’re streaking again, and after dropping 29 on the Knicks last night, Nowitzki’s coming into the Garden, where’s he’s had a ton of success dropping 27.7 points a night in 11 games.
All-Star selections and snubs: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett hoarded up four all-star spots in the East, where the only debate was whether one team deserved so many spots. Out West, Nowitzki will make his 10th appearance, but Tyson Chandler missed out on a chance to play an in the All-Star Game in front of his hometown crowd in Los Angeles. Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, and Blake Griffin ate up the remaining front court spots. Chandler’s averaging 10.2 points and 9.3 rebounds, topping his career averages. He still has an outside chance at getting a nod since David Stern has to handpick a replacement for the injured Yao Ming.
O’Neal questionable, Perk could start: Shaquille O’Neal missed another practice yesterday, suffering from an inflamed Achilles and he’s questionable for tonight. He’s already missed 12 games with hip, calf and knee injuries, and January was a rough month. His shots started to disappear as the month dragged on. He took two shots and missed both of them in Los Angeles and went 1 for 3 against the Kings. He and Rivers both insist that, at 38 years old, rebounding and shot blocking should be his primary focus. But in the meantime, Kendrick Perkins, who’s played six games since returning from a torn ACL, could rejoin the core four in the starting lineup for the first time since Game 6 of the Finals.