When the Mavericks play at Boston on Sunday afternoon, they will get a taste of what it was like for their opponents in February.
Celtics’ forward Jayson Tatum is having the kind of March that Luka Dončić had in February, when he was the NBA’s player of the month.
To say that Tatum has been unstoppable would be a fair assessment. And it’s something the Mavericks will have to deal with in the afternoon matchup (2:30 p.m., ABC).
In five March games, he’s averaged 39.8 points, including a 54-point whopper against Brooklyn.
It sounds a lot like that magical run Dončić had in February, when he averaged 34.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 10 games.
“The challenge is to win the game,” Dončić said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game. He (Tatum) is an amazing player. He’s going to be really tough to guard.”
Then, the superstar point guard slipped into what he considers the crucial element of everything the Mavericks do.
“We got to play hard,” he said. “If we don’t play hard, we’re not going to win. So we got to play hard and try to stop him – at least (make him) take tough shots.”
The Celtics have won 16 of their last 18 games, including all five in March. It’s the start of a brutal stretch for the Mavericks.
Nine of their next 10 games are against opponents on target to either be in the playoffs or the play-in tournament.
And it starts on what could be a very challenging day in Boston. The Celtics will be celebrating a lot, as Mavericks’ coach Jason Kidd noted.
“There’s a lot going on Sunday afternoon,” he said. “You have the game and they’re playing at a very high level, not just Jayson, but the Celtics. And then also you also have Kevin Garnett’s number being retired. So there’s a lot going on. And then St. Paddy’s Day is just right around the corner.
“There’s a lot of stuff happening. It should be fun. Both teams are playing well. We know the environment will be electric. Hopefully we’re up for that challenge. But Jayson Tatum is playing at a very high level, both offensively and defensively.”
With both teams in the meat of a playoff race, the winner will end up with a nice boost to their hopes of getting a home-court advantage in the first round.
“Right now, just to get to at least fourth place, that’s our goal, to have home advantage,” Dončić said. “But other than that, just play basketball.”
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