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Celtics vs. Mavericks: Predicting The NBA Finals Clash

It may not be the storied Lakers vs. Celtics matchup. It isn't the heavily predicted battle between Denver and Boston. But what NBA fans are getting with the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals is a series featuring the two teams that have played the best basketball during the 2024 playoffs.

This marks the first time in NBA history that the Celtics and the Mavericks have met on the NBA’s biggest stage. After falling to the Golden State Warriors in 2022, Boston looks to secure their eighteenth NBA title. After failing to qualify for the playoffs last year, Dallas is hoping to add a second championship to their record books.

The Celtics road to the Finals was relatively easy facing the Miami Heat without Jimmy Butler, the Cleveland Cavaliers without Donovan Mitchell and Jarrent Allen and the Indiana Pacers without Tyrese Haliburton. The Mavericks on the other hand had to go through three 50+ win teams in the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves.

So, after the incredible Denver Nuggets playoffs of last year, who will succeed in ultimate NBA glory?

What Game 1 Taught Us

If you tuned into the first game of the series, it told us everything and nothing and then everything again. After trading baskets early in the first quarter, the Celtics blew open the gates opening up a 17 point lead after the first twelve minutes and carried a 63-42 advantage into the break. But then somehow, someway, the Mavs were able to cut the deficit to as little as eight before eventually succumbing to a 107-89 blowout.

We all know that Boston likes to jack up a lot of three pointers. hoisting nearly 47% of their overall shots in the regular season from downtown, the Celtics hit 16-42. On the other hand, the Mavs only launched 27 shots from downtown, hitting just 7.

All five of the Celtics starters hit for double digits in points, led by Jaylen Brown’s 22, while Kristaps Porzingis contributed with 20 off the bench. The Mavs on the other hand were basically a one man show as Luka Doncic led the team with 30 points, while only three other teammates broke the ten point plus mark.

Key Players To Watch

Boston Celtics - It wasn't that long ago that Jayson Tatum was included in the talks for league MVP. While some of that chatter died down this season, Tatum quietly went about having what may have been the best overall season of his seven-year career. Tatum’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor, combined with his improved playmaking and defense will be a focal point for the Celtics success and for the Mavericks scouting reports.

As the second-best player on the best team in the league, the argument as to why Jaylen Brown wasn't among the fifteen players on the three All-NBA teams is completely valid, especially when you consider that players on “play-in” teams made it. Some may argue that Brown’s two way game is equally as important to the Celtics’ success as Tatum.

Kristaps Porzingis’ health will be key for the Celtics as a third and potentially second option. After sitting out for over a month with a calf injury that sidelined him for the last ten games, including all of the games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, the 7’2” Latvian unicorn’s return will be welcomed by the Celtics. In addition to his twenty points in Game 1, Porzingis added six rebounds and swatted three shots in twenty-one mintues of action. So much for rust.

Dallas Mavericks - Somewhere Gilbert Arenas is crying to anyone who will listen as to why he believes that European players do not belong in the NBA. That person clearly isn't a fan of Luka Doncic. After nearly averaging a triple-double during the regular season, Doncic has surgically dismantled each of his opponents in the playoffs. After finishing third in the MVP race, Doncic dismantled the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals averaging 32.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists.

Say what you will about Kyrie Irving. He didn’t fit in with the Boston Celtics, he didn’t fit in with the Brooklyn Nets, but somehow, he has surprisingly made it work with the Dallas Mavericks. While there have been games in which Irving wasn’t even a Robin to Doncic’s Batman in terms of statistics, it doesn’t take away his importance from the team, especially when Doncic is off the court.

X-Factors

Jrue Holiday went from a championship contender to a rebuilding team to playing for a championship all in the same season. While his stats may have dropped off significantly in his fourteenth season, his value to the Boston Celtics remains as high as it has ever been. With Porzingis on the sidelines, the ever reliable Al Horford stepped into the starting big man role for the Celtics and Boston hasn’t seemed to have missed a beat.

The Mavericks are a two man show, but part of that show includes involving two young big men who play the pick and roll/lob game very well. Or at least they did prior to Game 1. For the Mavs to have a chance, Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II need to be more impactful on both ends of the court with their energy. P.J. Washington, who was arguably the Mavericks second best player in the Oklahoma City Thunder series, needs to take on an even bigger role for the Mavericks against Porzingis.

Outlook

One game does not make a series, but it does make the series that much tougher to win, especially after a thirty point outcome.

At the end of the playoffs the Mavericks will have the best player in the series with Doncic, but the Celtics will have the best team, winning their eighteenth NBA championship in six games.

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