Another 47 from Kyrie vs. Mavs? Wouldn't surprise Carlisle


Another 47 from Kyrie vs. Mavs? Wouldn't surprise Carlisle

BOSTON – Those “M-V-P” chants you hear from Celtics fans when Kyrie Irving is on the free-throw line, will likely be alive and well tonight at some point against the Dallas Mavericks.

But the locals aren’t the only ones who see the four-time All-Star as deserving to be in the MVP conversation.


“He’s a legit MVP candidate,” said Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle.

He certainly looked like one the last time Boston played the Mavericks, a game in which Irving scored 47 points, the most he has scored since becoming a Celtic.

“He’s a great player,” Carlisle said. “He did virtually anything he wanted. So we have to give more resistance and make it tougher on him.”

That will be a lot easier said than done, especially with Irving playing some of his most efficient basketball like, ever.

He’s averaging 23.5 points per game, shooting a career-best 48.7 percent from the field.

In his past five games, Irving has shot 50 percent in four of them while shooting 52.1 percent overall in the span.

“When one guy goes for 47 points, it’s going to be hard to beat that team,” Carlisle said. “He’s one of those players, you gotta try and do something to slow him down a little bit.”

Here’s a look at five below-the-radar storylines to keep tabs on as the Celtics (21-4) look to close out their five-game homestand with another victory:

At 39, tonight may be the last time Dirk Nowitzki plays in front of the TD Garden crowd. While he has given no indications that he plans to retire, it’s clearly an option for Nowitzki who is now in his 20th NBA season. While Nowitzki doesn’t dominate games the way we’ve seen him in past years, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t improved upon facets of his game even at this advanced stage of his career. Nowitzki, averaging just 11.1 points per game, comes into tonight’s matchup shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range which would a career-high if he maintained it for the rest of the season.

Jayson Tatum has shot the 3-ball better than any player this season, but by no means are the Celtics a team with just one long-range shooter. As a team, Boston has stepped up its 3-point shooting across the board. That’s why in the past six games, the Celtics are shooting 43.4 percent on 3’s which ranks third in the league in that span.

Dallas has won four of its past six since losing to the Celtics. And the key to that newfound success has been their defense. In those six games, the Mavericks have a defensive rating of 101.0, which ranks fourth in the league in that span. Dallas also ranks in top 10 in defensive rebound percentage, opponent points off turnovers; opponent second-chance points; opponent points in the paint.

While Dallas’ defense has improved, the Mavericks still have trouble getting back while limiting opponent’s transition offense. For the season, Dallas ranks 28th in opponent fast-break points with 14.1 allowed per game. And in the past six games, their transition defense has been even worse - giving up 17.7 points via fast breaks - which is the most of any team in the league in that span.

Both Boston and Dallas are getting quality production from some of the youngest players in the NBA. Second-year wing Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum are in the starting lineup for Boston and have proven themselves to be significant contributors to a Celtics team that boasts the best record in the NBA. Dallas has a star on the rise of its own, in Dennis Smith Jr. who comes into tonight’s game averaging 14.5 points along with 4.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.



Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.