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Game 8: Celtics vs. Mavericks

at American Airlines Center, 8:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

There's no question that the Boston Celtics are legitimate contenders for the NBA title. The Dallas Mavericks know they have work to do to earn such consideration.

The Celtics look for their sixth straight win Monday night and fourth in a row at Dallas as they try to start 7-1 or better for the fourth straight season.

Since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Boston (6-1) in 2007, the Celtics have gotten off to fast starts. They opened 8-0 three seasons ago when they won the title and began 8-1 each of the last two seasons.

"The Celtics have been together for a while," Dallas center Tyson Chandler said. "They've played at the highest level and that's what we're trying to accomplish. We definitely need to come in focused for that game and treat it as big as it's gonna be."

The addition of Garnett and Allen has certainly changed the Celtics' fortunes at Dallas (3-2). Boston had dropped seven straight visits before winning the last three, with Allen averaging 20.7 points in those games.

Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 29.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in the defeats. He shot 47.8 percent in the three games, but his teammates combined to shoot 39.3 percent.

Jason Terry and Jason Kidd played in two of those meetings. Terry shot 37.5 percent in those games while Kidd connected at 31.3 percent.

The Celtics used a similar approach to stop a team with one superstar scorer in Sunday's 92-83 win at Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant scored a game-high 34 points, but Boston limited the rest of the Thunder to 39.6 percent shooting.

Read the full preview HERE.

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH

  • Big bigs problem?: If Jermaine O'Neal is limited at all by his sore left knee, the Celtics might be forced to press Shaquille O'Neal into action. Shaq has missed the past four games with a right knee bruise, but expressed optimism that he'd be back on the court during this four-game road trip. Could tonight be the night? If the O'Neals are out, or limited, that leaves rookie Semih Erden to eat minutes up front and could force Boston to go small, leaning on undersized bigs like Glen Davis and rookie Luke Harangody.

  • Defending Dirk: The Celtics must figure out how to slow down Nowitzki, who went off for 37 points in two of his last three games against Boston, and has topped 28 points on four of the six games in the Big Three era.

  • Building off Sunday's first 24 minutes: The Celtics did a lot right during the first half of Sunday's game against the Thunder, most notably limiting turnovers and executing on offense. After getting sloppy in the second half and nearly letting a win slip away, can Boston show more consistency on the second night of a grueling back-to-back?