NBA Finals Preview: Celtics or Mavs — Who Takes the Title?

A title is expected of this Celtics team — but Luka, Kyrie, and the Mavs stand in their way.

June 3, 2024

The NBA Finals are set, with the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks tipping off Thursday, June 6. This best-of-seven series will decide which team will take home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy as the 2024 NBA champions. The series preview below includes odds from Tipico Sportsbook and a championship prediction.

Boston Celtics (-220 odds to win series) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+175)

The Players

The Mavericks have the best player in the series in Luka Doncic – who leads the team across the board with 28.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 8.8 APG this postseason – but there’s a major drop-off for Dallas offensively after Doncic and Kyrie Irving (22.8 PPG).

Doncic is heavily favored to lead all scorers in total points in this series (-210), while Irving is third in that prop with +1000 odds. The team’s third-leading playoff scorer is P.J. Washington (13.6 PPG), followed by Derrick Jones Jr. (9.8 PPG), then centers Daniel Gafford (9.2 PPG) and Dereck Lively (8.6 PPG). Dallas is healthy heading into the NBA Finals.

Boston is much deeper and more balanced. The Celtics are led in points, rebounds and assists by Jayson Tatum (26 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 5.9 APG) —arguably a top-five all-around player in the NBA — but Jaylen Brown (25 PPG) and even Derrick White (17.8 PPG) have also proven capable of taking over games this postseason. Tatum has +280 odds to score the most total points in this series, while Brown has +1300 odds in that prop.

Jrue Holiday (12.7 PPG) has provided nice depth scoring, with Al Horford (9.9 PPG) and Payton Pritchard (7.5 PPG) also chipping in offensively.

Kristpas Porzingis averaged 20.1 PPG and 7.2 RPG in the regular season but dropped to just 12.3 PPG and 5 RPG in the playoffs before hurting his calf in Game 4 of the first round. The 7-2 stretch five’s availability for the NBA Finals is still up in the air, though Porzingis has resumed participating in team drills.

How They Got Here

Boston certainly earned the top seed in the East with an NBA-best 64-18 regular season record, but the Celtics waltzed into the NBA Finals against arguably the easiest set of pre-Finals playoff opponents ever.

They beat a Jimmy Butler-less Heat team in five games, then added a five-game series win against the No. 4 seed Cavaliers, who were missing Jarrett Allen all series and Donovan Mitchell after Game 3.

Boston then took advantage of multiple late-game chokes to sweep a 6-seeded Pacers team that clearly didn’t belong in the Eastern Conference Finals after getting there due to a slew of significant Bucks and Knicks injuries.

Dallas faced a far tougher path through the Western Conference after a 50-32 regular season. The Mavericks beat the No. 4 seed Clippers and No. 1 seed Thunder in six games apiece before adding a five-game gentleman’s sweep of the three-seed Timberwolves. The Mavericks bucked a trend by winning Game 1 in Minnesota, improving to 1-5 in series openers under coach Jason Kidd, though the Mavs have won five of those six series since the start of the 2022 playoffs.

The Matchup

The Celtics won both regular-season meetings between these teams, but those matchups occurred prior to Dallas’ late-season surge.

The Mavericks retooled at the trade deadline by acquiring Washington and Gafford, which turned the team into a defensive juggernaut and allowed them to hit their stride down the stretch after figuring out their new rotation. Dallas finished the regular season on a 16-4 run, and Doncic played in only one of those losses.

As if playing in the NBA Finals isn’t enough motivation, both teams will have a key player trying to stick it to their former team. There’s no love lost between Kyrie and the Celtics fanbase after Irving spent two forgettable years in Boston, while Porzingis was traded to the Mavericks by the Knicks in January 2019 and later traded to the Wizards by the Mavericks in February 2022 before finally landing in Boston last July via another trade.

The Pick

Boston was certainly the better regular-season team overall and has home-court advantage, but this will be a major step up in level of competition for the Celtics, while the Mavericks are already battle-tested.

Throw in Doncic’s elite all-around ability and Irving’s championship experience from 2016 with the Cavaliers, and you might just have the formula for an upset and yet another championship for the Dallas area to complement the Texas Rangers’ World Series win in November.

NBA Finals Prediction: Mavericks in 6 games (+550)

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.