Celtics-Mavericks 2024 NBA Finals preview, odds and prediction


Celtics-Mavericks 2024 NBA Finals preview, odds and prediction originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2024 NBA Finals matchup is set: The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks will square off with the Larry O’Brien Trophy at stake.

The Celtics are in the Finals for the second time in three years after going 12-2 in the Eastern Conference playoffs, including a sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals. The Mavericks are back in the Finals for the first time since 2011 after beating three 50-win teams in the Western Conference playoffs. Dallas eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves in the conference finals in five games.

This series doesn’t lack compelling storylines. The star power is tremendous. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Mavs guard Luka Doncic are two of the top five players in basketball and were both recently voted to the All-NBA first team. Boston guard Jaylen Brown is an All-NBA caliber player playing the best basketball of his career. He was the MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Celtics big man Al Horford is looking for his first championship ring in Year 17. Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd is attempting to become the 13th person to win a title as a player and a head coach. He would be the sixth to win as a player and head coach for the same team.

Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis has not played since Game 4 of the first round due to a calf injury. Getting him back in the lineup for the Finals would be a huge boost for the C’s. If Porzingis does play, he should be highly motivated to beat his former team.

And, of course, Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston will be a huge topic of discussion leading into the series. Irving is an elite scorer with championship-winning experience. He also played for the Celtics for two seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19. He left the team as a free agent in 2019 despite telling fans at an event before the 2017-18 campaign that he planned to re-sign. Irving also stomped on the Celtics’ iconic logo at center court as a player for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2021 playoffs. Even though it’s been five years since Irving left Boston, he is still likely to be the No. 1 villain for Celtics fans in this series.

Will the Celtics pass the Lakers and win a league record 18th championship, or will the Mavericks pull off another upset and claim the franchise’s second title in 14 seasons?

Here’s a complete preview of the Celtics-Mavericks matchup.

Series schedule

The NBA Finals begin Thursday, June 6 at TD Garden in Boston. The Celtics have homecourt advantage, which they didn’t have in their last two Finals appearances in 2010 and 2022.

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Regular season head-to-head

Jan. 22 in Dallas: Celtics 119-110

March 1 in Boston: Celtics 138-110

Tale of the Tape

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The Celtics will win the series if…

They continue to excel in clutch situations.

Stepping up in the clutch was a problem for the Celtics at times in the regular season, and in previous playoff runs. But that hasn’t been the case in the 2024 playoffs so far. In fact, the Celtics have been the league’s best clutch team through three rounds.

Boston put on a clutch clinic in the Eastern Conference Finals. The C’s earned three clutch wins in their four-game sweep of the Pacers, and their stats in clutch moments were incredibly positive.

Whether it was hitting important shots (like Jaylen Brown’s 3-pointer to force overtime in Game 1) or playing great defense (such as Jrue Holiday’s huge steal late in Game 3), the Celtics dominated at the end of games in the conference finals. Holiday has played a huge role in Boston’s clutch success at both ends of the floor. His championship experience is super valuable to this team.

Can the Celtics thrive in the clutch on the sport’s biggest stage? It will be a major factor in the outcome of the series. The Mavericks have two of the league’s best closers in Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, both of whom are capable of completely taking over when the game is on the line.

The Mavericks will win the series if…

The supporting cast steps up.

Stopping Doncic and Irving will be difficult. They are two of the best offensive players of their generation. They averaged a combined 59.4 points per game in the Western Conference Finals. Both of these guys are going to show up.

But who else on the Mavericks is going to be a consistent threat offensively? Doncic and Irving are the only Mavericks players scoring more than 14 points per game in the playoffs.

P.J. Washington is an X-factor. He’s been inconsistent from beyond the arc in the playoffs. He shot 31.3 percent from 3-point range in the first round, then improved to a red-hot 46.9 percent in the conference semifinals, and down to 25 percent in the conference finals. Which Washington will Dallas get in the Finals?

Derrick Jones Jr. scored 22 points in the Game 6 clincher against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round. He scored a total of 37 points in five games versus the Timberwolves. Maxi Kleber returned to the lineup for Game 4 of the conference finals after missing the previous nine games. He is capable of getting hot from 3-point range.

Daniel Gafford and rookie center Dereck Lively are capable of chipping in 10-plus points on a given night, too.

The Mavericks need one or more of these players to provide consistent secondary scoring if they’re going to match the Celtics’ offensive firepower. Boston is the highest-scoring team in the playoffs at 111.4 points per game.

Odds

Sportsbooks have the Celtics as favorites to win the series.

Prediction

Celtics in six.

The Celtics have the best starting five in basketball, an elite offense and elite defense. Boston is capable of beating Dallas without Porzingis, but if the star center does return, the Celtics’ scoring depth and interior defense will be even better.

The Celtics not only have homecourt advantage, they’ve been dominant on the road, too. The C’s will take an eight-game road playoff win streak into Game 1 of the Finals. Boston’s huge improvement in clutch situations is another reason to be optimistic about its chances in this series.

The last four wins are always the toughest, and the Celtics will be under immense pressure to finish the job, especially as the favorites. The Celtics have been the best team all season, and they will finally silence the critics by winning their 18th championship in a few weeks.





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