NBA Finals 2024: Experts predict Celtics-Mavericks Finals and series MVP

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The 2024 NBA Finals are finally here, as the top-seeded Boston Celtics take on the No. 5-seeded Dallas Mavericks.

This is the first time these two teams have met in the Finals. To claim spots in the championship round, the Celtics swept the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals and the Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in five games in the West.

The highly anticipated series will feature a dynamic duo matchup between Luka Doncic-Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown — any of whom could claim Finals MVP. Kristaps Porzingis will also make his return to the court after suffering a right calf strain in the first round.

Which team will raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy later this month? Ahead of Thursday’s Game 1 inside Boston’s TD Garden (8:30 ET on ABC), our NBA experts are predicting the series outcome, including which superstar will take home NBA Finals MVP honors.

MORE: Finals schedule and news | Top 12 players of the postseason

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The 2024 NBA Finals tipped off with a dominant Game 1 win by the Boston Celtics over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

The series couldn’t have started any better for the Celtics, who used a 23-5 run over the final six minutes of the first quarter to build a comfortable lead. Boston’s defense continued to give Dallas fits throughout the half, limiting the Western Conference champion to 42 points, its second-lowest first-half point total of the 2024 playoffs.

The 21-point lead the Celtics enjoyed at halftime started to evaporate in the third quarter as Luka Doncic & Co. were able to cut their deficit to single digits, but Boston’s ability to limit Dallas’ role players was too much to overcome. (Doncic recorded 30 points and 10 rebounds, but his one assist was a postseason career low.)

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 22 points and, most notably, Kristaps Porzingis made an impressive return from a calf injury that had sidelined the 7-foot-3 center since the opening round. He finished Game 1 with 20 points and three blocks.

The Mavericks will try to even the series in Sunday’s Game 2 (8 p.m. ET, ABC), but while we wait, let’s take a look at what stood out to our NBA insiders from Thursday night.

What Game 1 trend could define the series?
Tim Bontemps: Boston’s ability to guard Dallas. Kyrie Irving went 6-for-19 and 0-for-5 from 3. Doncic finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds but had just one assist — the fewest he’s had in a game this season and ever in a postseason — and Dallas had nine as a team. Much of that defensive success came from Boston’s defensive versatility and its ability to throw multiple defenders at Dallas’ stars without doubling. Doncic has torn apart double teams throughout the playoffs, and by being able to stay at home, Boston prevented Mavs’ role players such as P.J. Washington from getting going.

Marc Spears: Tatum doesn’t have to play well for the Celtics to beat the Mavericks. The Boston star had a subpar night — 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting with a game-high six turnovers — but it didn’t matter. The Celtics have too many other offensive options (six players finished scoring double figures), especially if Porzingis stays healthy. But what will happen in this series when Tatum turns it on?

EDITOR’S PICKS

Mavs limited to 9 assists: ‘Got to move the ball’
2hTim MacMahon

Porzingis’ ‘monster’ return keys Celts’ G1 blowout
1hTim Bontemps

NBA Finals 2024: Celtics-Mavericks news, schedule, scores and highlights
3hESPN
Kevin Pelton: Boston’s advantage in 3-point attempts. Although both of these teams believe in the 3 — the Mavericks (44) finished behind only the Celtics (47) in the percentage of their regular-season attempts behind the arc — there are levels to their commitment. The 3 is practically an article of faith for coach Joe Mazzulla, and Boston’s ability to switch a variety of pick-and-roll combinations allows Celtics defenders to stay home rather than having to help in the paint and surrendering open looks.

The result was Boston doubling up Dallas beyond the arc in the first half. And while the Mavericks won’t continue to shoot as poorly from downtown as they did in falling behind by 29 points, that’s a concern. The team that has attempted more 3s has gone 48-27 (.640) in this year’s playoffs, including Boston going 11-1 as compared to 2-1 when the opponent shoots more.

In particular, the Celtics did a great job of taking away the corner 3 attempts Doncic typically creates. Dallas went 1-of-3 from the corners, with the lone make coming from Josh Green in garbage time. Per Second Spectrum tracking, that tied the fewest corner 3-point attempts for the Mavericks all season.