NBA Finals: 5 Things to Watch Out for in Celtics vs. Mavs


The 2024 NBA Finals are now set, with Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks to take place on Thursday June 6th. It’s a fascinating clash of styles and characters, and it might be a lot closer than it looks on paper.

The Celtics are, unsurprisingly, the clear favorites going into the Finals, but the momentum that has been gathering behind the Mavs over the past few months has been impressive. Whatever happens, it looks like we are going to get a superb matchup. Let’s look at some of the things to watch out for below:

1.      Battle of the MVP Candidates

If we look at the NBA betting lines for the Finals, it’s clear that the focus is going to be on the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and the Mavs’ Luka Doncic. While we might argue that the Celtics’ have a little more depth and could still win should Tatum not be firing on all cylinders – in fact, he cooled off a little in the earlier round of the Playoffs – it’s clear that the Mavs’ hopes rest on Doncic. The Slovenian has pulled this team through the spring and into the summer, and Boston’s tactics in stopping him are going to be key. If you look back to the game between the two teams on March 1, where the Celtics came away with a 138-100 victory, it perfectly shows what Boston must do. You can’t stop Doncic outright (he still managed 27 points in that game), but the Boston defense did a good job of neutralizing him.

2.      TD Garden Factor

As no.1 seed, Boston will have home advantage over four games in the series (if necessary). That could count for a lot when you consider that the Celtics have gone 43-6 (including Playoff games) this season. It’s a formidable record. But it’s imperative for Joe Mazzulla’s team that they make the home advantage count early, stamping their authority on this Dallas team at TD Garden over the first two games before heading west. If they don’t, their tags as NBA Finals favorites will start to be questioned. If Dallas can get at least one win in Boston, then it’s game on.

3.      The Return of Kyrie Irving

It’s hard to look at Kyrie Irving and not think he has a major role to play in this series, and we don’t just mean on the court. He has shown a lot of maturity throughout the Mavs’ great run in 2024, looking like a more diligent and level-headed player throughout the Playoffs. His return to Boston, where the fans hold him in no great affection, will be interesting to view. For Joe Mazzulla, there is also the task of getting his players to keep their cool around Irving. You get the sense that Irving would love to wind up the Boston fans, although that, in itself, could become a distraction for his Mavs’ teammates.

4.      The Mavs May Be Underrated

There are so many things that point to a Boston victory – best record, no.1 seed, the TD Garden factor. Perhaps above all is that no team seeded higher than 3 has won the NBA Championship for nearly 30 years. The Mavs are seeded 5. In saying that, there is an incredible momentum behind this team: They are markedly different from the start of the season. Indeed, it was not long after that defeat to Boston in March when the Mavs started purring, going 16-4 to close out the season and seemingly getting even better in the Playoffs. The Celtics deserve to be favorites, but this is going to be closer than what the stats say.  

5.      The Porzingis Factor

Both teams go into the NBA Finals relatively healthy. However, the biggest issue for Boston is the fitness of Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian center has been out since Game 4 of the 1st round, and many pundits think that he, not Tatum or Jaylen Brown, is the key man for Boston. The big man is a huge presence (literally) on the court, and he does make Boston tick. They probably have the depth to win without him, but it’s going to be interesting to see whether they rush him back to the court. It could be a deciding factor.