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Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics goes to the basket against Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks in the at American Airlines Center on January 22, 2024. We look at their matchup in our NBA Finals Odds & Betting Preview.
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics goes to the basket against Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks in the at American Airlines Center on January 22, 2024. Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images via AFP.

The Dallas Mavericks meet the Boston Celtics for the NBA championship beginning Thursday, and we're diving into the NBA Finals odds and betting preview ahead of the series.

Considered by many throughout the season as one of the best teams in the league, the Boston Celtics' NBA championship odds regularly reflected as much.

The Celtics have thus far lived up to expectations, boasting an impressive 12-2 postseason record en route to the finals. However, the storied franchise will be bitterly disappointed if they fall short at the final hurdle. 

The Dallas Mavericks represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals, something few predicted as the start of the campaign. 

At one point, many believed Dallas would need the NBA Play-In Tournament to make it to the playoffs. But thanks to Luka Doncic's stellar play down the stretch, the Mavs have exceeded expectations, and he's become an NBA Finals MVP odds favorite.

What makes this matchup so exciting is that both teams are peaking at just the right time coming out of the conference finals. It's a showdown between the best team in the league and arguably the best player in the league. Regardless of the outcome, this year's NBA Finals promises to be filled with compelling storylines.

Here's my breakdown of the best NBA Finals odds and betting preview, along with our Mavericks vs. Celtics player props (odds via our best sports betting sites).

2024 NBA Finals schedule

1TD Garden (Boston)Thursday, June 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
2TD Garden (Boston)Sunday, June 9 at 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
3American Airlines Center (Dallas)Wednesday, June 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
4American Airlines Center (Dallas)Friday, June 14 at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
5TD Garden (Boston)Monday, June 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
6American Airlines Center (Dallas)Thursday, June 20 at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
7TD Garden (Boston)Sunday, June 23 at 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

Mavericks vs. Celtics stats breakdown

Regular season record50-3264-18
Playoff record12-512-2
Off rating (rank)117.6 (10th)123.2 (1st)
Def rating (rank)115.4 (18th)111.6 (3rd)
Net rating (rank)+2.2 (14th)+11.6 (1st)
Top scorer (PPG)Luka Doncic (33.9)Jayson Tatum (26.9)
Top rebounder (RPG)Luka Doncic (9.2)Jayson Tatum (8.1)
Top passer (APG)Luka Doncic (9.8)Derrick White (5.2)

The Celtics have been a juggernaut all season with the best record in the NBA and the stats to back it up. Ranking top three in either offensive or defensive rating is no small task, and Boston was among the best in both. No roster in the NBA has a better starting lineup than the Celtics.

Not only are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown proven All-Star's that are capable of taking over games with their scoring prowess, they're two of the best two-way players in the league. To then be able to put All-Defensive player's like Jrue Holiday and Derrick White around them is ridiculous. That's without even mentioning Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, with the latter expected to play in the NBA Finals after missing the last two series. 

Boston's talent and experience within its top six will be a challenge for Dallas, but no player is better at taking over games than Doncic. He leads the playoffs in pretty much every category and is one of the most prolific scorers in recent NBA history. With former Celtics guard Kyrie Irving flanking him in the backcourt, the Mavs have one of the most gifted 1-2 punches in the NBA. 

Perhaps the series will come down to how well Dallas' frontcourt can play. Throughout the playoffs, Daniel Gafford, Dereck Lively II, P.J. Washington, and Derrick Jones Jr. have stepped up for the Mavericks. Will they be able to continue leading Dallas' defense against a team as loaded as Boston?

Mavericks vs. Celtics odds

MarketMavericks Celtics
Series winner+184 via FanDuel-210 via DraftKings
Series spread+1.5 games (-114 via FanDuel)-1.5 games (+100 via Caesars
Series total gamesOver 5.5 (-150 via DraftKings)Under 5.5 (+135 via bet365)
Game 1 winner+210 via FanDuel-230 via DraftKings
Game 1 spread+6.5 (-110 via bet365)-6.5 (-110 via BetMGM)
Game 1 totalOver 214.5 (-108 via FanDuel)Under 214.5 (-110 via BetMGM)
Finals MVP favoriteLuka Doncic (+215 via Caesars)Jayson Tatum (-115 via DraftKings)

Looking at the series overall, it's difficult to bet into this market without having some bias toward Boston. The Celtics have simply been the best team all year and despite a hiccup here and there in the playoffs, a 12-2 record is incredible. I think it's even a good thing that they've had to come from behind a few times, too - specifically against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

They've proven that when things look bleak, they have veterans capable of leading a comeback and playing their best in crunch time. Our best sportsbooks would agree that on paper Boston is clearly the better team. The longest odds for the Celtics to win the series are -210, which imply a 67.74% probability they will take home the title, according to our odds converter. But those odds would pay just a $4.76 profit on a $10 bet. 

That's why I think targeting other odds for the series and individual games is the better option. The series spread odds are reasonable regardless of who you bet on and I think pairing them with the series total games odds makes a lot of sense. I lean Boston winning the series in six, so the Celtics' -1.5 series spread and the Over 5.5 total games pair well together.

Looking at the NBA Finals MVP market, this goes hand in hand with the team you feel most strongly about winning the title. Given Doncic's usage as the engine that makes the Mavericks run, if you like Dallas to win it all, he's an easy MVP candidate to back, especially with the +215 odds paying a $21.50 profit on a $10 bet.

The Celtics are slightly trickier. Tatum is the best player, but with so much talent, he doesn't always need to put up gaudy numbers. A perfect example of this is the the ECF against the Pacers. Brown was named MVP of the series after averaging 29.8 points - his best odds to win Finals MVP are +650 via DraftKings. Still, Tatum at -115 is a good bet, those odds imply a 53.49% win probability.

Mavericks vs. Celtics series player props

Series leaderMavericksCeltics
Total pointsLuka Doncic (-135 via BetMGM)Jayson Tatum (+270 via DraftKings)
Total reboundsLuka Doncic (+180 via DraftKings)Jayson Tatum (-105 via bet365)
Total assistsLuka Doncic (-500 via bet365)Jayson Tatum (+1200 via DraftKings)
Total threesLuka Doncic (+120 via BetMGM)Derrick White (+350 via BetMGM)

Clearly, this market is run by the two best players on each team. Doncic has been putting up prime Larry Bird numbers in the playoffs, averaging 28.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 8.8 APG, and 3.4 made 3-pointers per game. He's a good bet to lead a few of these categories.

With Doncic's usage and the need for him to score for Dallas to win the series, the -135 odds for him to put up the most total points are a solid value. He's averaging 29.6 combined field goals and free throws per game in the playoffs, 2.1 more than Tatum and he's making 1.3 more threes per game. 

However, it's worth staying away from the total assists prop. Doncic is so likely to lead the series in apples that the best odds are -500, which imply an 83.33% win probability, but only pay a $2 profit on a $10 bet. 

The best bet in terms of probability and price might be Doncic's +120 odds to lead the series in threes. This same prop is minus-money across our other best sports betting sites and he's averaging the same amount of made threes per game as White, but is taking more, playing more, and will likely need to hit more for the Mavs to be competitive. 

One category Tatum has a solid chance of leading the series in is rebounds. He's been collecting boards like Tom Brady collected Super Bowl rings and is averaging 10.4 per game in the postseason. The -105 odds are a good value considering Dallas allowed the sixth-most rebounds per game to opponents this year (45.1).

NBA Finals prediction

This NBA Finals is going to be a real treat. Doncic is one of the most spectacular players to ever grace an NBA court and like Nikola Jokic last year, all he wants to do is enjoy that first post-victory beer. Yet, for all his talent, winning the actual series against this Boston team is almost as improbable as the Dallas Cowboys winning a Super Bowl under Mike McCarthy.

Celtics general manager Brad Stevens has perfectly crafted this roster and head coach Joe Mazzulla has done nothing to cast any doubt about his ability to manage it. Even when Boston has played poorly in the playoffs, the Celtics have come back to win, like when they erased an 18-point deficit against the Pacers.

That's why I just don't think the Mavericks have the support around Doncic to win four games against Boston - unless Irving stomps the Celtics' defense the way he did Lucky the Leprechaun. But for as talented as Irving is, he's volatile and has had five games under 20 points these playoffs, which can't happen against Boston. 

That said, Doncic still feels like a good bet to clean up in many of the player props categories. Nobody will be relied upon in the series more than him to score and he has the green light from Jason Kidd to shoot as much as he wants, making the plus-money odds for him to lead the series in threes my favorite prop of the Finals.

But at the end of the day, this is Boston's championship to lose and it would be poetic to see Bill Walton's favorite childhood team, and the team he won a championship with in 1986, win the title. Making it even more beautiful is the fact that Walton was the unofficial ambassador of the Pac-12, and the Celtics have three former stars from the "conference of champions" in their starting lineup. Boston in six.

Best bet: Doncic to lead series in total 3-pointers made (+120 via BetMGM)

NBA Finals predictions

How to bet on the NBA Finals

Before placing any bets, familiarize yourself with the basic types of bets you can place on NBA games from prop bets to spread bets to Over/Under bets. Figuring out what you want to bet on is almost as important as deciding which best sports betting apps you'll place your bets at. From there, study the teams, players, and recent performances. Consider factors like injuries, team dynamics, and home-court advantage. 

Look at key player matchups and how they might influence the game. For instance, if one team has a dominant center and the other struggles with interior defense, that could be a key factor. Consider how each team’s strengths align with the other team’s weaknesses. For example, a team that excels in three-point shooting could have an advantage over a team that struggles to defend the perimeter.

Injuries can significantly impact the outcome of a game. Keep up-to-date with the latest injury reports and player statuses. Even the absence of a key role player can shift the dynamics of the game. Examine how the teams have been playing in recent games. Teams peaking at the right time often carry momentum into the Finals. Look at win streaks, defensive and offensive efficiencies, and how they’ve fared against strong competition.

By incorporating these strategies into your NBA Finals betting approach, you can make more informed and potentially more successful bets. Always remember to bet responsibly and within your means.

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