TTX Sports >Football World >Celtics-Mavericks: How to watch, what to expect – 2024 NBA Finals

Celtics-Mavericks: How to watch, what to expect – 2024 NBA Finals

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Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum go head to head in the 2024 NBA Finals.

One swept, the other swept like gentlemen. It was as if the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks were eager to get on with this and wanted as much prep time as possible before Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals on June 6.  

Boston was the NBA’s best team by record all season, running away with the East and claiming home court for as long as they need it, including this round. Dallas went 50-32, which it’s worth noting would have tied for second in the East with New York. That still was 14 games off the Celtics’ pace, though, and good for only the No. 5 seed in the West.  

That had the Mavericks playing from down under to beat the Clippers, the Thunder and the Timberwolves, all while looking more like a title threat at each step. Boston mostly stayed above the fray as favorites, which brought criticism for lone missteps against the Heat and the Cavaliers and allowed some critics to poke at forward Jayson Tatum’s fire.  

The Celtics took both games against Dallas this season. They won 119-110 on the Mavericks’ court on Jan. 22, then beat the Mavs again 138-110 on March 1 in Boston. This is Boston’s 23rd trip to the Finals. Dallas has made it twice before, this one coming 13 years after its 2011 upset championship over the first edition of Miami’s “super team”.


Series schedule 

Here’s how to watch the Celtics vs. Mavericks Finals: 

All times Eastern Daylight Time 

Game 1: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 6 (8:30 p.m., ABC) 

Game 2: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 9 (8 p.m., ABC) 

Game 3: Celtics vs. Mavericks, June 12 (8:30 p.m., ABC) 

Game 4: Celtics vs. Mavericks, June 14 (8:30 p.m., ABC) 

Game 5: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 17 (8:30 p.m., ABC)* 

Game 6: Celtics vs. Mavericks, June 20 (8:30 p.m., ABC)* 

Game 7: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 23 (8 p.m., ABC)* 

* = If necessary 


Top storyline  

Battle of the backcourts. It’s been a claim for a couple weeks this postseason, that in Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving Dallas arguably has the most potent offensive backcourt in NBA history. Why argue now? Let’s stipulate to that and enjoy a strength vs. strength matchup with Boston’s starting guards.  

Jrue Holiday and Derrick White both earned spots on the All-Defensive Second Team, and have built their reputations over years of making offensive counterparts uncomfortable. They’re disruptive and sticky, capable of ball pressure that can throw off even Doncic’s late-clock decisions or Irving’s highlight finishes. Going the other way, Irving has looked more diligent this spring, while Doncic mostly uses defensive possessions to recharge.  

In the two regular-season meetings, the Dallas tandem totaled 112 points, 51% of their team’s output. Holiday and White scored 47, a pittance by comparison. But all the other Celtics outscored all the other Mavs 210-108.


Keep your eyes on 

The Porzingis factor. Boston center Kristaps Porzingis went down in the first round against Miami with a right soleus (calf) strain. No one expected to see him in the semis against Cleveland and the East Finals didn’t last long enough for it to become a possibility. Now he might be more of a necessity given the problems posed by Dallas’ bigs.  

Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II are vertical rim-runners who play as if on pogo sticks, always available to flush a Doncic lob. Derrick Jones Jr. and P.J. Washington have upped their production in the postseason. That’s a lot to handle up front, and Boston’s Al Horford – game and effective the past two rounds – is 38 years old and in need of help. 

Porzingis, at 7-foot-2 and 240, averaged 20 points and two blocked shots, both of which could help the Celtics. He’s a big body in the paint, he’s a three-level scorer and he deepens coach Joe Mazzulla’s rotation after five weeks of postseason grind.


1 more thing to watch for each team 

For the Celtics: Counting by threes. Boston led the league all season in 3-pointers taken and made, hitting them at the second-best percentage. That tactic has continued to pay off in the playoffs, with their average of 14.6 makes and 39.8 attempts topping all others. When they’ve hit 14 or more in a game this spring, they’re 9-0, and they have gotten up 40 or more attempts in half of their postseason games.  

The Mavericks have been solid, just not stellar from the arc. They’ve averaged 12.4 makes and 33.7 attempts, are 6-1 when making 14 or more, but have launched as many as 40 only once in 16 games.  

For the Mavericks: Irving back in Boston. Porzingis isn’t the only one headed into a matchup with his former team. Irving’s two seasons in Boston (2017-19) were more emotional than Porzingis’ stint in Dallas, marked by more individual success (two All-Star berths) than team satisfaction. He has been booed and heckled constantly since leaving for Brooklyn in 2019, and after he stomped on the Celtics’ midcourt logo in a 2021 playoff visit, a fan threw a water bottle at him.  

Irving has been a model team member with Dallas, avoiding off-court controversies while focusing on his contributions. But that’s not the Kyrie that Boston fans will target starting with Game 1 Thursday (8:30 ET, ABC).


1 key number to know

4.9 — The Mavs have made 4.9 corner 3-pointers per game, what would be the fourth-highest playoff mark in the 28 years for which we have play-by-play data.

Among individuals, P.J. Washington (28-for-70, 40.0%) and Derrick Jones Jr. (18-for-38, 47.4%) rank first and second in total corner 3-pointers. Washington’s 28 makes are the most for any player in the last six postseasons and five shy of Bruce Bowen’s record of 33 in 2007. Jones’ 47.4% on corner 3s is up from just 33.8% in the regular season.

The Celtics’ defense does not yield many corner 3s, just 1.5 makes per game (fewest in the playoffs) through the conference finals. Only 18% of their opponents’ 3-point attempts, the lowest opponent rate in the playoffs, have come from the corners. They also had the lowest opponent rate (21%) in the regular season, when the Mavs were just 4-for-16 from the corners in their two head-to-head meetings. Those four corner 3s (and the 2.0 per game) were tied for the fewest that Dallas had against any opponent.

— John Schuhmann


The pick 

Celtics in six. The Mavericks were six games under .500 last season and only 25-21 in late January. Only Doncic, among starters, remains from 16 months ago. So whatever expectation Dallas or its fans hold for the franchise’s second championship pales in comparison to Boston’s for No. 18. This is the sixth time in eight years the Celtics have reached at least the conference finals and their second Finals in three years. Star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have achieved almost everything short of a ring. Coach Joe Mazzulla’s job status was shaky at this time in 2023 and Horford can’t wait to get off that “most playoff games without a title” list.  

Urgency alone doesn’t win championships, but urgency + talent + roster depth + experience + continuity + home court should be enough.

* * *

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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