Why the Celtics Will Beat the Mavs Tonight
In two words: Antoine Walker. The versatile power forward always seems to find a way to beat former employers. Proof inside.
As a Maverick, he beat the Celtics. In Dallas on March 19, 2004, the Mavericks crushed the Celtics 120-104. Walker was already in full swing as the team's center, despite typically being considered undersized against most power forwards. He was the second-highest rebounder on the team with 9 boards behind Antawn Jamison's 12 and the second-highest scorer with 21 points behind Dirk Nowitzki's 24.
As a Hawk, he beat the Mavs. To this day, one of Atlanta's most impressive wins of the season was the 113-100 victory over the Mavs on December 22, 2004. In prime Walker fashion, he carried the game for the first half then told the team's budding superstar, Al Harrington, that his were the shoulders that would carry them to victory. And indeed they did. Coming out of a nearly tie game at halftime, Walker rallied the troops to an improbable win against a former team.
As a Hawk, he beat the Celtics. On January 22, 2005, just one month before becoming a Celtic again, Walker poured in 29 points to bring the struggling Hawks over the hump to beat the visiting Celtics 100-96. Even Boston's surprise debut of Tony Allen as a starter was not enough to close the gap.
As a re-born Celtic, he beat the Hawks. On March 9, his sixth game as a Celtic part deux and the first game after a painful last-second loss to the visiting Timberwolves, Atlanta led Boston 30-20 after the first quarter and 52-46 at the half, and the Hawks nursed that lead all the way into the fourth quarter. But a Walker-inspired 31-21 fourth quarter put yet another former Walker team away to the tune of a 95-91 Celtics win.
As a re-born Celtic, he will beat the Mavs tonight. It follows simply from the proof above.
There is however a caveat. The above victories were, with one exception, the second meeting between Walker and a former club. The first meetings did not typically go as smoothly.
As a Maverick, he lost to the Celtics in his first game back to Boston on December 17, 2003, just a few short months after being traded. Walker missed one of his notorious three-point bombs at the buzzer, which would have given Dallas the win.
As a Hawk, he lost to the Mavs in what was one of Atlanta's worst losses of the season just a few short days before the victory mentioned above. The Mavs crushed the Hawks 90-68 four days and with no intervening Hawks games before the victory.
As a re-born Celtic, however, he has not yet lost to a former team. His first meeting against the Hawks earlier this month was not the last one: the two clubs square off again two days after the Dallas game tonight.
This week will be a week of reunions for employee number 8. Tonight he takes on the Mavericks. On Friday he takes on the Hawks. After that, he won't see either team until next season, unless the Mavs meet the Celtics in the Finals.
Prediction: Celtics win 104-100.