2024 NBA Finals: Key matchups, top storylines and predictions for Celtics-Mavericks

Luka Doncic, NBA Finals
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 NBA Finals are set to get going Thursday evening with the Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics hosting the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks.

Boston’s road to the Finals was paved a bit smoother than the Mavericks. Jayson Tatum and Co. were also expected to be here after finishing the regular season with an NBA-best 64-18 record. As for Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, they finished as the fifth seed out west.

Boston remains slight favorites to come away with the franchise’s 18th Larry O’Brien Trophy. Dallas is looking to win just its second NBA title after coming away with the hardware back in 2011.

Here, we preview this NBA Finals series with a look at key matchups, storylines and a final prediction. But first, let’s check in on the logistics.

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2024 NBA Finals schedule

2024 NBA Finals
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, June 6

MatchupTime (ET)TV Info:
Mavericks @ Celtics8:30 PMABC

Sunday, June 9

MatchupTime (ET)TV Info:
Mavericks @ Celtics8:00 PMABC

Wednesday, June 12

MatchupTime (ET)TV Info:
Celtics @ Mavericks8:30 PMABC

Friday, June 14

MatchupTime (ET)TV Info:
Celtics @ Mavericks8:30 PMABC

Monday, June 17

MatchupTime (ET)TV Info:
Mavericks @ Celtics8:30 PMABC

Related: 20 greatest NBA Finals performances ever

2024 NBA Finals odds

  • Winning team: Boston Celtics (-225), Dallas Mavericks (+188)
  • NBA Finals MVP: Jayson Tatum (-125), Luka Doncic (+210), Jaylen Brown (+700), Kyrie Irving (+1800)

Key matchups for the 2024 NBA Finals

NBA Finals: Kyrie Irving
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Here, we look at some key matchups for the championship round.

Kyrie Irving vs Jrue Holiday

If Boston is going to come away with the Larry O’Brien, it will have to limit what Irving does on offense. Luka Doncic is going to get his. We already know that. It’s all about making sure no one else on the Mavericks’ roster helps out.

In games that Irving has gone for 20 points or less thus far in the postseason, the Mavericks find themselves at a mere 3-3. That’s where Holiday comes into play. The guard is a six-time All-NBA Defensive Team player for a reason. He also helped limit fellow point guard Tyrese Haliburton to less than 18 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

Related: 10 best Dallas Mavericks players ever

Luka Doncic vs Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

We’re pretty darn sure that Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla will use several players in an attempt to at least contain Doncic in the 2024 NBA Finals. Derrick White will obviously play a big role in this regard.

White actually finished second on the Celtics in defensive win shares at 3.3. However, Tatum’s brilliance on that end can’t be denied (4.1 defensive win shares).

We know full well that Doncic will get his. But it’s all about making one of the NBA’s best players more of a volume scorer than anything else.

  • Luka Doncic stats (2024 NBA Playoffs): 28.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 8.8 APG, 44% shooting

If the Celtics can hold Doncic to roughly 40% shooting in this series, it gives them a much better chance of coming out on top.

Related: Best NBA Finals series ever

Top storylines for 2024 NBA Finals

NBA Finals: Luka Doncic
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic and his turn at greatness

Already seen as one of the greatest players in modern NBA history, Doncic can etch his name in stone if he’s able to lead Dallas to an upset win over Boston. The dude just turned 25 years old back in February. He has five All-Star appearances and five All-NBA honors to his name.

A win this June could be the start of a run that will see him finish mentioned with the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Stephen Curry. That really is not hyperbole.

Kristaps Porzingis health and role

Porzingis has been sidelined since the first round of the NBA Playoffs with a right a calf strain. The big man indicated ahead of the 2024 NBA Finals that he plans to play Game 1 Thursday night. But it came with a caveat.

“Good question. I don’t know. We’ll see,” Porzingis said when asked if he’s 100%. “Done a lot of work up until this point. Done everything needed to get back into playing shape. We’ll see.”

Even if Porzingis is near 100%, it makes much more sense for the Celtics to keep Al Horford in the starting five. He’s done a great job stretching the floor in the playoffs (35% from three-point range). This would also give the Celtics another scorer off the bench.

Related: 10 best Boston Celtics players ever

Kyrie Irving against the Boston Celtics

We already know that this is a major storyline heading into the 2024 NBA Finals. Irving suited up with the Celtics for two seasons from 2017-19. It did not end swimmingly with drama being the name of the game.

Irving acknowledges that his stint in Boston did not paint the NBA champion in the best of lights.

“It was just a chapter in my life that I got to enjoy for the most part. We had a great opportunity to do some special things, but it was cut short, just based off personal reasons on my end.

One thing I look back on my time in Boston — I’ve said this over the past few years, but somehow it gets tossed under the rug — but the greatest thing I learned from Boston was just being able to manage not only my emotions or just what’s going on on a day-to-day basis of being a leader of a team or being one of the leaders, and having young guys around you that have their own goals, but you have to learn how to put the big picture first.”

Kyrie Irving on his Boston Celtics tenure

Irving also admitted that “it’s going to be hell in Boston.” That might very well be the understatement of the year. It will be interesting to see how Irving controls his emotions within the confines of such a hostile environment.

2024 NBA Finals prediction: Dallas Mavericks in 7

Related: 5 key players to watch in the 2024 NBA Finals

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