NBA Finals preview: How the Mavericks can conquer the Celtics at NBA Finals

For Dallas, they seek their second title overall, and for their 25-year-old ultrastar, the crowning as the undeniable force of the sport.

DALLAS — In addition to airing every game of the 2024 NBA Finals on our station, WFAA is also hosting a special presentation called “The Pregame” before each and every matchup in the series. Head here for more information.

And then there were two. The Dallas Mavericks, fresh off a magical run through an elite Western Conference against a Boston Celtics team that has been the presumptive favorites all season. 

These two franchises will face off for the right to call themselves World Champions starting Wednesday night. For Boston, a Finals win would be their historic and league-best eighteenth championship. For Dallas, they seek their second title overall, and for their 25-year-old ultrastar, the crowning as the undeniable force of the sport.

After catching fire heading into the All-Star break, Dallas ended their regular season on a tear that saw them miss home court advantage in the first round by just one game, but still finish with 50 wins. The Mavericks’ defense improved remarkably after their trade deadline additions and it continued to surprise upper echelon offenses throughout the playoffs. 

The clutch shooting from their star backcourt of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving has also opened up the offense, where Dallas is taking advantage of lobs and open shots when defenses are forced to pick their poison. 

After a false start in the half season that Irving spent with Doncic after being traded to the Mavericks last spring, the superstar duo has clicked and now Dallas has only lost five of 17 games through three series on their way to the Finals, as they knocked off the No. 4, No. 1, and No. 3 seeds in the Western Conference, 50+ game winners each. 

On the other side of the court, it is no hyperbole to say that Boston absolutely ran away with the Eastern Conference virtually unopposed. The Celtics were the top seed in the East by fourteen games, seemingly winning the Atlantic Division by November. Their league-best 64 wins was especially remarkable seeing as only one other team on their side of the bracket even got to 50 victories. For additional context, Dallas (32 losses) lost almost twice as much as Boston in the regular season. 

The special season in Boston came about as the Celtics base their attack on excellent three-point shooting from their entire lineup, leading the league in attempts and second in made shots from deep. While they were dead last in attempts from within the arc, they were also second in shooting percentage for two-pointers as well as in total points. This is an elite team on both sides of the ball, able to pick their shot selections as well as being among the league’s best in defensive rebounds and blocks. 

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Much will be made of the battle between the two star duos, but while the Celtics only had two All-Stars on their roster this season, the depth of their starting lineup is truly the class of the league. Defending Doncic and Irving will be guards Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, who were both named to the All-Defensive 2nd team. 

Holiday has shown his worth on previous title winner Milwaukee, who felt his absence after trading him to make room for Damian Lillard. Holiday and White also both shot at a 40%+ clip from deep, with White coming in second on the team in attempts to main star Jayson Tatum. 

While they are defensive anchors, there’s not a defense yet in this postseason that has had an answer for Doncic and Irving, especially when they’ve been able to find Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford for easy buckets at the rim. 

Tatum – Boston’s unquestioned star and leader – joined Doncic on the All-NBA First team and was in the conversation for league MVP as well. The Irving to Luka’s Tatum is Jaylen Brown, Boston’s superstar wingman who could sneak up on people if too much of the focus falls on Tatum. After all, Brown is fresh off being named the Eastern Conference Finals MVP after averaging nearly 30 points in the Boston sweep over Rick Carlisle’s Indianapolis Pacers. 

X-factor Kristaps Porzingis is expected back in the starting lineup after an injury sidelined him since the opening round, bringing his unique skill set to flank the Celtics playmakers. 

Porzingis was the third scoring option during the regular season for the Celtics and is a 20-point scoring threat in his own right. As a big that can defend the rim on defense and an outlier three-point threat on offense as a seven-footer, Dallas will have to figure out a way to not let their former co-star be the difference. 

Brown and Tatum led Boston to a 2-0 record against the Mavericks in 2023-24 but one of those contests came before Dallas had made their trade deadline acquisitions and the other came before the Mavs had gelled and began their incredible run since mid-March when they went 16-4 to close out the regular season before going 12-5 in the always tough Western Conference playoffs. 

The Mavericks are expected to turn to defensive anchors P.J Washington and Derrick Jones Jr. to spearhead their efforts against Tatum and Brown. While not the national household names like their counterparts, Washington and Jones have been seen giving fits to stars like Paul George, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Anthony Edwards during this playoff run. Gafford and Lively are again tasked with being the two-headed monster patrolling the paint. 

There will be intriguing matchups all over the entire court in this series and how coaches Jason Kidd and Joe Mazzulla deploy their tactics will be a focal point of these Finals. Needless to say, despite conquering the West, the Celtics represent the greatest test of the year for the Mavericks. 

Dallas will have their work cut out for them, but at this point can you really bet against Luka? The NBA’s brightest star seems to have no stopper left in the league outside of his own health, and now that he is four wins away from immortality, Boston is tasked with figuring out what the West couldn’t. 

It’s possible that Boston’s mix of their own superstars and immense depth and quality overwhelms Dallas as it has all comers throughout this season, but Doncic has always performed at his best with the lights their brightest, and there are no moments brighter than the NBA Finals.

Do you think the Mavericks will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy for the second time in franchise history? Share your predictions with Irvin on X (formerly Twitter) @Twittirv.

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