Per Dallas Mavericks beat writer Eddie Sefko, Mavericks second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. won’t be playing against the Boston Celtics on Saturday as Boston travels to American Airlines Center in hopes of getting back-to-back wins after a three-game losing streak. Veteran wing Wesley Matthews, however, will suit up against the Celtics after missing Dallas’ last three games with a hamstring injury.
Though Smith’s injury status doesn’t come as a surprise considering that he only played 18 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, it marks the second game of the season that the 20-year-old will miss. His absence will be a welcome sight for the Celtics, as the explosive point guard could have caused problems for Boston’s perimeter defense.
Smith is averaging 14.1 points and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 39.3 percent shooting from three-point range. With him out, veteran guard J.J. Barea — a shifty and calculating albeit undersized floor general at 6-foot-0 — is likely to receive the lion’s share of minutes at point guard while 35-year-old Devin Harris gets his number called for just the eighth game of the season.
Though Barea, who averages 10.3 points per game, has the ability to explode from time to time, neither Barea or Smith poses the same level of threat for the Celtics defense. As for their own defensive acumen, neither Barea nor Harris will be equipped to stop Boston’s floor generals.
Matthews return will be just as conspicuous as Smith’s absence, with the sharpshooter averaging 16.1 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 38.2 percent from three-point range. Defensively, Matthews may be tasked with guarding Jayson Tatum and due to his reputation on that end, the second-year forward could have a tougher night getting to his shot than he has of late.
Though a game that the Celtics should win, Boston has had trouble finding a rhythm on offense and Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is one of the league’s better defensive coaches. That said, even if Boston comes out as the victor, don’t be surprised if it’s a close game throughout.
*All stats gathered from Basketball Reference