NBA Finals Faceoff: Celtics vs. Mavericks – Who Will Claim Victory?

The Boston Celtics have been the boss of the NBA all season, losing less than 20 games. The Dallas Mavericks got hot at the right time. So what's the best bet?

The Boston Celtics (64-18) steamrolled their competition and took advantage of key injuries to All-Stars to clinch another Eastern Conference crown and return to the NBA Finals. The Dallas Mavericks (50-32) got hot at the right time and picked off three 50-plus win teams to win the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time under star point guard Luka Doncic.

Will the Mavs stay hot as a huge underdog, or will the Celtics finally complete their mission to win an 18th championship? The Celtics are a big favorite according to BetMGM at -225 odds. The Mavericks are +180 odds and an underdog in a fourth-straight series this postseason.

Both teams rely heavily on their own dynamic duos with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown from the Celtics squaring off against Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving from the Mavs. The championship will come down to which tandem outperforms the other.


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No Unicorn? No Problem

When the Celtics pulled off a huge trade to acquire Kristaps “Unicorn” Porzingis in the offseason, they knew they were gambling on the health status of the 7-foot-4 big man. With a healthy Porzingis, the Celtics’ offense looked unstoppable and he anchored their defense as a rim protector.

Porzingis sustained a strained left calf injury in the opening round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat. However, the Celtics did not skip a beat and went 9-1 in the postseason without him, which includes a four-game sweep against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“When KP is at his best, he’s been tremendous for us and we expect that from him and we know he’ll give that to us,” said head coach Joe Mazzulla.

The Celtics insist that Porzingis is “on track” to return in time to play in the NBA Finals, but they’ve been vague about a specific timeline.

In 57 regular season games this season, Porzingis averaged 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. He sat out seven games with a left calf injury, but he also missed time with a slew of other maladies including a sprained ankle, sore back, hamstring, and knee injuries. In the 25 games without the Unicorn, the Celtics went 21-4 in the regular season. If you count the 10 games he missed in the playoffs, the Celtics are 30-5 without him.


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Boston’s Big Two: Tatum and Brown

General manager Brad Stevens made several bold offseason moves to rebuild the Celtics around their two stars, Tatum and Brown. In addition to acquiring Porzingis in a blockbuster trade, the Celtics also added veteran point guard and defensive stopper Jrue Holiday. The revamped Celtics locked up the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and logged the best record in the NBA this season with 64 wins.

Holiday has been shutting down the best wing player on opposing teams this postseason, and he will have his hands full trying to slow down Doncic and Irving. In 14 playoff games with the Celtics, Holiday emerged as the team’s third-top scorer averaging 12.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 points, and 1.3 steals per game. He’s also shooting nearly 40% from 3-point range.

After a 12-2 record this postseason, the Celtics are only four more wins away from a championship thanks to steady play from Tatum and Brown.

Tatum led the Celtics with 30.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He scored 36 points against the Pacers in Game 1 and Game 3 during their sweep.

Brown was on fire in the Eastern Conference Finals averaging 29.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game. He torched the Pacers for 40 points in Game 2.

Tatum is the consensus favorite at BetMGM to win the 2024 NBA Finals MVP at-120 odds. Brown is third overall at +625 odds.

 


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Texas Two-Step: Doncic and Irving

The Mavs went 12-5 during the 2024 NBA Playoffs despite playing the role as the underdog in the first three rounds. The Mavs returned to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2011 when they won their only championship in franchise history.

As the #5 seed, they defeated the #4 Los Angeles Clippers in six games during the opening round. In the Western Conference semifinals, the Mavs toppled the #1 Oklahoma City Thunder in six games. In the Western Conference Finals, the Mavs only needed five games to knock off the #3 Minnesota Timberwolves.

Doncic and Irving combined for 51.6 points, 14.0 assists, and 13.5 rebounds per game through the first three rounds of the playoffs. Doncic leads the Mavs with 28.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game this postseason. He also tallied five triple-doubles in the playoffs.

Irving was the Mavs’ second-best scorer in the playoffs by averaging 22.8 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game. He led the team in 3-point shooting with a 42.1% success rate.

The Celtics will use a combo of players to slow down Doncic. Holiday and Derrick White will split time defending Doncic, but expect Tatum to also try to disrupt the Mavs’ leading scorer.

According to BetMGM’s awards page, Doncic is the second favorite on the board to win the NBA Finals MVP at +200 odds. Irving is the fourth favorite on the board at +1800 odds.

NBA Championship Odds Tracker

In the preseason, the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks were co-favorites to win the championship at +400 odds according to BetMGM. The Mavs were +2200 odds and the ninth favorite on the board.

By New Year’s, the Celtics were the top team in the Eastern Conference and led the NBA with a 26-6 record. Their title odds bumped to +340. Meanwhile, the Mavs slipped to +3000 odds and tumbled to sixth place in the Western Conference after an 8-8 stretch in December.

By the All-Star Break in mid-February, the front-running Celtics improved to 43-12 and their title odds jumped to +260. The Mavs had a 33-23 record, but were only in seventh place in the top-heavy West. Their odds were holding steady at +3000.

By the end of the regular season, no one won more games than the Celtics, who were the consensus favorite to win the championship at +160 odds. Even though they were the #5 seed in the West, the Mavs were fifth on the futures board at +1600.

At the end of the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics were still at the top of the board at +115, but the Mavs were a long shot at +1700.

At the beginning of the conference finals, the Celtics were -150 odds to win it all and the Mavs were +500. At the start of the NBA Finals, the Celtics are -225 odds and the Mavs are +180.

 


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Predict the Series Score

BetMGM offers a popular prop bet to pick the correct series score. The outright favorite is the Celtics to win the championship in five games with a 4-1 series score at +300 odds. The Celtics to clinch a title in six games with a 4-2 series score is the second favorite on the board at +350 odds. The Celtics winning the title in a seven-game series pays out +450 odds, while a four-game sweep pays out +500.

If you’re looking to back the Mavs to pull off an upset, the Mavs are +400 odds to win the championship in six games with a 4-2 series score. The Mavs prevailing in a seven-game series pays out +600. The Mavs winning the title in five games pays out +1500 odds, while a four-game sweep of the Celtics is +2500 odds.

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