NBA Finals G1: Mavericks-Celtics Preview, Props, Prediction

League: NBA

Posted on: 06 Jun, 2024 at 05:26 PM

Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 NBA Finals kick off with the Dallas Mavericks visiting the Boston Celtics in Game 1 at TD Garden on Thursday night.

The Celtics are consensus 6.5-point favorites coming off their sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the Mavericks seek to steal home-court advantage in their quest for the franchise's first NBA title since 2011.

The underdog Mavs have been popular with the public ahead of Game 1, which is understandable considering Dallas has covered the spread in seven of its past eight road games. The Mavs have been backed by 74 percent of the spread-line money at BetRivers, where they have also drawn 57 percent of the moneyline handle at +200.

Boston has won eight consecutive games against Western Conference opponents, and the Celtics have won the first half in each of their past five meetings against the Mavs.

The Over/Under at the book was at 215.5 on Thursday morning, with the Over heavily supported with 84 percent of the money.

--Luka Doncic Over 31.5 Points (-110 at DraftKings): This has been the most popular player point total prop at the book, and Dallas' superstar averaged 32.4 points in the team's five-game win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals. That was a significant uptick from averaging 24.7 points in the six-game series win over Oklahoma City in the semis.

--Jaylen Brown Over 20.5 Points (-265 at BetRivers): The book reported 4.7 percent of the total player prop bets ahead of Game 1 have backed the Over on Brown's point total. Dallas has a superior defense to Indiana's, but Brown did average 29.8 points in the sweep of the Pacers while scoring at least 24 in each game.

Dallas guard Kyrie Irving and Boston big man Kristaps Porzingis find themselves pitted against their former teams, with Irving's breakup with the Celtics much messier than Porzingis' departure from the Mavericks.

Irving spent two seasons in Boston (2017-19) and told fans that he planned on re-signing with the Celtics.

That didn't happen, though, and Irving broke for the Brooklyn Nets once the summer rolled around. He has been met with boos when playing in Boston ever since, and his teams have lost the past six games against the Celtics.

But a hostile environment is the last thing Irving is worried about on the NBA's biggest stage.

"There's no fear out here, man. It's basketball," Irving said. "The fans are going to say what they're going to say. I appreciate them and their relationship they have to the game. But it's about the players at the end of the day."

Dallas moved on from Porzingis at the 2022 trade deadline, shipping him to the Washington Wizards after deciding that he wasn't the right piece to pair with Doncic.

"I don't know why it didn't work out," Doncic said. "We were still both young. We tried to make it work, but it just didn't work."

Both teams are trying to win a championship for the first time in over a decade. The Mavericks' last title came in 2011, while Boston hasn't gone all the way since 2008.

The Celtics had a golden opportunity to secure their 18th title in franchise history just two years ago, but they fell 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Looking back on it now, Boston star Jayson Tatum thinks there was a silver lining in coming up short.

"It was a lesson to be learned," Tatum said. "I told myself that if I ever got the opportunity again to make it to the Finals, that (I'd) never take it for granted. Obviously, we're here now and thankful to be here.

"I'm excited to get ready to play and have fun (Thursday)."

Dallas, on the other hand, will be appearing in the Finals for the first time since its title run 13 years ago. Irving, Markieff Morris and Derrick Jones Jr. are the only Mavericks with experience in this stage of the postseason.

"Some of us for the Mavs have been here, some of us haven't," said Dallas coach Jason Kidd, who was the starting point guard on the Mavericks' 2011 championship team. "We're going to embrace that and find a way to hopefully win a series."

Beating the Celtics could get a lot harder depending on the health of Porzingis, who has missed the past 10 games due to a right soleus (calf) strain. Porzingis will be good to go for Game 1, but he's unsure if he will be operating at 100 percent.

"I did as much as I could to prepare for this moment, but there's nothing like game minutes and game experience that I'm going to get (Thursday)," Porzingis said. "It will be tough to jump into the Finals like this."

The Celtics have been riding a high since their improbable final-minute comeback against Indiana to kick off the conference finals. The 6.5-point line is a big one to swallow, so we're more focused on Game 1 odds contributing to a slow start and backing the Under at 215.5 points. -- Celtics 109, Mavericks 104

--Field Level Media