Celtics

Marchand, Peverley set to return for B's

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Marchand, Peverley set to return for B's

NEWARK The Bruins have both Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley back with the team, and the speedy, gritty wingers are prepared to help make a difference against a New Jersey Devils squad thats on a roll.

Peverley said it was difficult watching the games against Florida and Tampa Bay that he missed while dealing with personal matters. His speed and skill will be welcomed with open arms by a Bruins team that has looked increasingly stagnant against the competition on the road.

Im not sure its missing guys as much as its an overall team attitude thats been dragging us down for quite some time now, said Peverley. Im excited to be back. I missed the games and Im excited to be around the guys again.

Its overall energy and bringing speed to the game. Thats obviously something thats been hurting us. Its moving the puck quickly and keeping your feet moving. When were doing that were playing at our best.

Peverley appeared to be skating with Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly during pregame skate at the Prudential Center, but Claude Julien has mentioned several times he may start tweaking the lines if things dont improve.

Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice and Julien confirmed following morning skate that hell get the starting nod against the Devils. Thomas is coming off a blah effort in a defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He allowing four goals amid the chaos in front of his net, but Julien is showing some confidence in his 37-year-old netminder to go back to him Thursday.

Julien may also be inching toward handing Tuukka Rask a very big start on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden against the New York Rangers a team that Rask has played well against in the past. Here is the projected lineup for tonights tilt against the Devils:

Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin
Lucic-Krejci-Horton
Pouliot-Kelly-Peverley
Paille-Campbell-Thornton

Chara-Boychuk
Seidenberg-McQuaid
Ference-Corvo

Thomas
Rask

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE