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2024 NBA Finals Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. Boston Celtics

Celtics Mavericks NBA
The Boston Celtics will square up with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

2024 NBA Finals Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. Boston Celtics

It’s that time. The 2024 NBA Finals is here! The 50-win Dallas Mavericks, who made a remarkable in-season turnaround post-All-Star break, and the 64-win Boston Celtics meet in the NBA Finals! The series tips off Thursday evening at 8:30 p.m. EST. Let’s dive into our series preview!

Game 1Thursday, June 6Dallas @ Boston8:30 p.m. ETABC
Game 2Sunday, June 9Dallas @ Boston8 p.m. ETABC
Game 3Wednesday, June 12Boston @ Dallas8:30 p.m. ETABC
Game 4Friday, June 14Boston @ Dallas8:30 p.m. ETABC
Game 5*Monday, June 17Dallas @ Boston8:30 p.m. ETABC
Game 6*Thursday, June 20Boston @ Dallas8:30 p.m. ETABC
Game 7*Sunday, June 23Dallas @ Boston8 p.m. ETABC

What we know about the Mavericks:


Key Reserves:

On Feb. 4, the Dallas Mavericks were 26-23 and the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. They finished the regular season winning 16 of their final 20 games and finished with 50 wins for the second time since it won the title in 2010-11.

Despite Luka Doncic dealing with multiple injuries, the Mavericks powered through both the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in six games. Despite being down in the waning moments throughout the majority of the Western Conference Finals, they made quick work of the Minnesota Timberwolves, winning in five games.

Dallas’ journey was a lot more arduous than Boston’s, respectfully, beating three 50-win teams including a combination of Paul George, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Anthony Edwards–in addition to the other skill, length and versatile players that all three teams possess.

What we know about the Celtics:


Key Reserves:

The Boston Celtics had a far more favorable path to the NBA Finals–even though it was out of control.

But outside of a few of those, the Celtics handled business; they did what they were supposed to do. They crushed both the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers in five games and swept the Indiana Pacers. Miami was without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier; Cleveland was missing Jarrett Allen plus Donovan Mitchell for the final two games; the Pacers were also without Tyrese Haliburton for the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics, meanwhile, did the majority of their legwork without Kristaps Porzingis–who you could argue was their third-most important player this season–after injuring his calf in Game 4 against the Heat. Boston still carries a 10.8 NET Rating through these playoffs–over four points per 100 possessions better than the next-best team (Thunder, 6.4) and 6.7 points greater than their Finals counterpart.

If you adjust that metric based on strength of schedule, the gap probably closes, but the point is: Boston took care of business, for the most part, regardless of who was in front of them. It didn’t matter.

Biggest question(s):

Can Boston slow down Kyrie?

Luka Doncic will get his. He averaged 32.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.2 steals on 47.3/43.4/84.6 shooting splits into five games against the Wolves and has consistently busted dudes since he was 16-years-old overseas. He carved up every Minnesota coverage like a pumpkin; they couldn’t find an answer and, frankly, there wasn’t one.

The Celtics will likely throw plenty of bodies with mixing size and defensive skillsets, from Holiday to Tatum and everything in between. Doncic will try to pry Horford and Porzingis out in space and who knows how Boston will mix up those coverages. But whichever guard/wing isn’t defending Doncic will likely be tasked with checking Irving.

The Celtics deploy one of the best defensive backcourts in the sport with Holiday and White, two All-NBA caliber defenders. One of Minnesota’s biggest problems was its inability to defend Irving, who averaged 27.0 points on 49.0/37.5/80.8 shooting against Minnesota after he wasn’t incredibly aggressive against Oklahoma City in the West Semis.

It’s an awfully tall task against Boston, but he may need to replicate his WCF series output if the Mavericks want to win this series.

How will Kristaps Porzingis look post-injury?

Porzingis last played on April 29. That is a 37-day layoff between when he last played. Calf injuries can be tough because it’s linked to the achilles; for a 7-footer, you want to be extra cautious with how you proceed when nursing that injury.

Porzingis offers a unique blend of functional size and shooting that Boston hasn’t had. With all due respect to Robert Williams, he couldn’t space the floor or be as versatile offensively as Porzingis has. He averaged 20.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks on 51.6 percent shooting, 37.5 percent from 3-point range and 85.8 percent from the free-throw line.

It’s unknown whether or not Porzingis will have the same mobility and productivity post-injury. Hopefully, with this long layoff, we will see a version that looks closer to his old self.

This will be Boston’s first real test: What does it look like?

The Boston Celtics had one of the most dominant regular seasons that any team has had in recent memory. They were a historically great offense with historically good efficiency. Their adjusted NET Rating was four points better than any other team in the league this year and they were better against the West than they were against the East, contrary to popular belief.

But is there something to not being tested until the NBA Finals?

If we’re being fair, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been tested for their entire careers with grueling playoff run after grueling playoff runs. Sure, they’ve come up short collectively without a ring, but they’re battle-tested. Jrue Holiday helped the Milwaukee Bucks win their first title in a half-century four seasons ago and has gone through multiple deep playoff runs otherwise–battle-tested. Al Horford is battle-tested. You put Derrick White in a cage with a bear, he not only wins but comes out with a bear coat on with plenty of bear meat. Battle-tested.

The Celtics were in plenty of close games against Indiana–some of which they had to crawl back from–but this group just hasn’t truly been tested this postseason, collectively. The Mavericks have. It may not matter in the end, but it’s worth pondering.


Typically, the best player in the NBA Finals ends up on top. Luka Doncic is the best player. Though there’s also historical precedent for 60-win teams winning the title. There have been 37 previous conference champions who have won 60 games–they’re 28-9, including 22-8 since the merger. Boston has five of the series’ seven best players. Unless P.J. Washington turns into Ray Allen, like he did against Oklahoma City, or Derrick Jones Jr. turns into 2022-23 ECF Caleb Martin, then it’s going to be hard to make up that talent gap if Doncic and Irving aren’t ripping the nylon off the hoop. Celtics in 6

Now I’m going to wash my mouth out with soap.


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