Huge Challenge

The offseason acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen sparked the Boston Celtics' dramatic turnaround. The Celtics hope the absence of those players doesn't have the opposite effect.

After surviving their first game without both Garnett and Allen, the short-handed Celtics face a bigger challenge as they host the surging Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Dallas -1 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 185.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Dallas -1 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Garnett missed his second consecutive game Tuesday with a strained abdominal muscle, and Allen was sidelined with the flu, but the Celtics (35-8) cruised to a 117-87 win over reeling Miami.

Beating Dallas (31-13) likely won't be as easy if Boston is again without two of its top three scorers. Allen is day-to-day, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday that he'll be careful not to rush Garnett back into the lineup.

"If he can play Thursday, we'll play him," Rivers said. "But again, it's got to be almost 100 percent. That's the way I look at those types of injuries."

Garnett and Allen joined the Celtics in offseason trades, helping the team bounce back from last season's 24-58 finish to post the best record in the league so far in 2007-08.

Dallas, which had the league's best record last season at 67-15, has won 13 of 14 games against Boston since the 2000-01 season, including seven in a row since falling 105-103 on the road on Dec. 17, 2003.

This season's Mavericks have won 12 of 14, including four in a row. They opened a four-game road trip with a 103-84 victory over Memphis on Monday, and meet the three division leaders in the Eastern Conference - Boston, Detroit and Orlando - in their next three games.

"It's going to be a tough trip," said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds Monday as Dallas improved to 11-10 on the road. "Boston is the best team right now in the league. Best record. We all know what Detroit is like at home. They're tough to beat. It's going to be a fun trip. Very tough."

Like Boston, Dallas is without one of its top offensive options with starting point guard Devin Harris expected to miss at least 2-3 weeks with a bone bruise on his left ankle. Jerry Stackhouse, one of the team's top reserves, also was sidelined Monday with a strained right hamstring and is considered day-to-day.

"We pride ourselves whenever we have a man down, banding together and really putting together some great efforts," said Jason Terry, who has replaced Harris in the starting lineup.

That philosophy is familiar to the Celtics, who got season-high point totals from Leon Powe (25), Rajon Rondo (23), Eddie House (20) and Tony Allen (20) in Tuesday's win. Paul Pierce, Boston's leading scorer at 20.1 points per game, was held to seven points while going 2-for-9 from the field.

"One of the things that we talked about before the game is that no one was going to be Ray Allen and no one is going to be Kevin Garnett," Rivers said. "But all of them could do a little extra."

Pierce is averaging 28.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the last five meetings with the Mavericks, while Nowitzki has averaged 27.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in those games - all Dallas wins.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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