NBA

NBA Conference Finals Predictions: Who Will Battle for the Title?

The defending champs are out — do the favored Celtics have a clear path, or will another team surprise?

May 20, 2024

It’s time for the NBA Conference Finals, with just four teams left in contention for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. The series previews below are accompanied by odds from Tipico Sportsbook and predictions.

Eastern Conference Finals 

1 Celtics (-1000 odds to win series) vs. 6 Pacers (+600)

Both of these teams have benefited from the plethora of injuries in the East. The heavily favored Celtics faced a Heat team without Jimmy Butler in the first round and a Cavaliers team without Jarrett Allen in the second round, winning both series in five games.

Indiana has been even luckier. In the first round, the Pacers won in six games against a Bucks team that was without Giannis Antetokounmpo for the entire series and without Damian Lillard for a significant portion of it.

In the second round, the Pacers needed seven games to defeat a Knicks team that was missing Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic by the end of the series, with OG Anunoby essentially unavailable and Josh Hart significantly hobbled. The Celtics are without Kristaps Porzingis (calf), who is hoping to return before the end of this series, but if Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White can avoid the injury bug, Indiana is likely to present much less of a challenge for Boston than a healthy Knicks or Bucks team would have.

Boston’s offense has been led by Tatum (24.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 5.8 APG), Brown (23.1 PPG) and White (18.2 PPG) in the playoffs. Porzingis averaged 12.3 PPG in four playoff games before getting hurt. The Celtics have the far superior starting five, but the Pacers have better depth, which allows them to play at a breakneck pace. Seven Pacers are averaging at least 10.5 PPG in the postseason, led by Pascal Siakam (21.1 PPG), Tyrese Haliburton (18.8 PPG) and Myles Turner (17.5 PPG).

Boston led the NBA in offensive efficiency in the regular season, while Indiana finished second. While the Celtics won the season series 3-2, Indiana won their most important regular season meeting in the quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament on the Pacers’ home floor. The Pacers are 6-0 at home in the playoffs and will likely manage to ride the crowd’s energy and some hot shooting to a home win in Game 3 or 4, but the Celtics have a far higher ceiling defensively and can score at will against the porous Pacers defense. Game 1 tips off Tuesday night in Boston.

Prediction: Celtics in 5 (+210)

Western Conference Finals

3 Timberwolves (-170) vs. 5 Mavericks (+145)

Minnesota has showcased the whole package so far in the playoffs, overwhelming opponents in dominant fashion at times while also stepping up in the clutch to win close games by relying on a balanced mix of star power, depth and defense. After a first-round sweep of the Suns, the Timberwolves knocked out the defending champion Nuggets in seven games. Minnesota’s three wins in Denver during that series were remarkable, considering the Nuggets came into the series with only one loss at Ball Arena in their last two playoff runs combined.

Anthony Edwards is playing like a superstar on both ends with 28.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 5.9 APG, as well as 2.3 stocks (steals + blocks) per game. Karl-Anthony Towns has been a reliable second option with 18.8 PPG this postseason, and the Wolves have seven players averaging at least 9 PPG.

The defense is anchored by DPOY Rudy Gobert inside, with Nickeil Alexander-Walker teaming up with Edwards to lock down guards and wings on the perimeter. Minnesota is the healthiest of the four teams heading into the Conference Finals, with the biggest injury concern being head coach Chris Finch’s ruptured patellar tendon.

Dallas is battle-tested heading into the Western Conference Finals, coming off a pair of hard-fought six-game series victories over the Clippers and the top-seeded Thunder. Both of those series were tied 2-2 before the Mavericks pulled away.

Dallas will look to get off to a better start in Wednesday’s Game 1. The Mavericks are 0-5 in series openers under coach Jason Kidd over the last two postseasons, though they have remarkably come back to win four of those five series. Luka Doncic (27.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 9.1 APG) and Kyrie Irving (21.1 PPG) have spearheaded Dallas’ offense this postseason, but the Mavericks have gotten well-rounded contributions from their supporting cast, with four other players averaging between 8.3 and 14.3 PPG.

Maxi Kleber (shoulder) has been out since the final game of the first round for Dallas, while Doncic has looked banged up but appears to be in no danger of sitting out.

Both teams have legitimate championship aspirations given what they’ve shown so far, but the pre-series edge goes to the Timberwolves after eliminating MVP Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets on the road. Minnesota won the season series 3-1, but that doesn’t mean much, considering Irving missed three of those games and Doncic sat out two.

Prediction: Timberwolves in 6 (+550)

NBA Championship Pick: Timberwolves (+260)

Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha Yodashkin has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
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