There are four games in the NBA on Thursday night and two MVP contenders clash in Dallas as Jayson Tatum’s Boston Celtics take on Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
These two sides came close to meeting in the Finals last year as Boston reached the showpiece series and Dallas fell in the Western Conference finals, going down in five games to eventual winners Golden State Warriors.
The Celtics lead the way in the East with a league-best 26-12 overall record, while the Mavs are in fourth place in the West and they are on course to book an automatic place in the playoffs.
|What||Boston Celtics @ Dallas Mavericks|
|Where||American Airlines Center, Dallas|
|When||19:30 ET, Thursday January 5th 2023|
|How to watch||NBA League Pass, TNT, NBCSB|
|Odds||BOS Celtics -150, DAL Mavericks +130|
Tatum, Doncic and two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic are the frontrunners to claim this season’s top individual honor and we should expect big performances from the two on show in this game on Thursday.
Doncic is rated at +260 to be named the regular season MVP and he is enjoying a sensational campaign.
The Slovenian became just the second player in NBA history to record a 60-point triple-double last month with 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over New York Knicks and he has scored at least 35 points in each of his three games since that feat.
The forward/guard leads the NBA scoring charts as he is averaging 34.8 points-per-game, with 8.8 rebounds and 8.9 assists.
Tatum, who is +300 to win the MVP award, is averaging career-highs in points and rebounds with 30.8 per-game and 8.0 respectively.
The Celtics forward was the clear leader in the MVP fight earlier in the campaign but Doncic’s recent displays have perhaps changed that and both of these stars will be looking to put in big performances on Thursday.
The key difference is Tatum has a fantastic supporting cast but Doncic tends to carry the Mavs and he doesn’t have the same calibre of player backing him up.
The Celtics have Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon within their squad but if the Mavs are without Doncic they tend to struggle.
That gives the Slovenian an edge in the MVP battle, but Boston are by far the more likely of the two teams to finish the season as NBA champions.
Boston may boast the best record in the league but they have hit a bit of a rough patch ahead of the trip to Texas.
The Celtics are preparing for the third of a four-game road swing against Western Conference teams and they have lost the first two, including a hugely disappointing 150-117 blowout defeat to an Oklahoma City Thunder side who were without star man Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
In contrast, Dallas are one of the league’s form teams and they are seeking an eighth straight win on Thursday.
The Mavs claimed a 111-106 win at Houston Rockets last time out and Doncic admits that wasn’t their best performance, but he was delighted they were able to keep their hot-streak going ahead of a tough test against Boston.
"Winning is always great," said Doncic, via the official NBA website. "The energy in the locker room is amazing, so to win seven in a row is pretty good, but we want more. I think today we (played poorly against Houston), but great teams come back and win games."
Both teams have no fresh injury worries going into the game and Dallas remain without Dorian Finney-Smith, who has missed the last seven games with a hip issue, and long-term absentees Maximilian Kleber and Josh Green.
Veteran forward Danilo Gallinari is still out for Boston with a knee injury as he awaits his debut, while Robert Williams is likely to sit out again after missing the defeat at OKC with a knee problem of his own.
The Celtics will probably stick with the same five that started against the Thunder as they bid to respond to that heavy loss, while the Mavs should keep faith with their starting lineup from the win over the Rockets and guard Kemba Walker will be hoping for some minutes from the bench against his former employers.