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NBA Finals Preview - Celtics vs. Mavericks

by Nico Oliva

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) and Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) reach for the opening tip during the first half of an NBA game, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Dallas. (Elías Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

The 2024 NBA playoffs season has been a rollercoaster for basketball fans. From the Timberwolves surprise run, to the Nuggets early exit, a culmination of great games has led up to every team's ultimate goal: winning an NBA championship.

The Finals matchup is set, between the best team of the East bleeding green, the Boston Celtics, who once again finished atop of the Eastern Conference, as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and company look to get over the championship hump. The Best of the West, the dark horse, the Dallas Mavericks, led by Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, are looking to silence critics and bring a ring back to the state of Texas. But these teams' path to where they are today, was like night and day.

Boston Found a Pot of Gold This Postseason

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) during the first half on Jan. 22, 2024, in Dallas. (Elías Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

No Jimmy Butler in round one vs Miami, a banged up Knicks squad in round 2, and no Tyrese Haliburton for 2 of the 4 games in the Conference Finals. This was a dream scenario for Boston. But at the same time, this has many people wondering, was their path to the Finals too easy?

Regardless, the Celtics wouldn’t be where they are today, without big games from Derrick White, who’s had multiple 30 point games this postseason, or Jrue Holiday who has made key plays defensively, proving that this team isn’t just 2 dimensional with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, it's perhaps the squad with the most depth of impactful players left in this year's playoffs.

Their key acquisition this offseason who was playing great basketball in the regular season, and halfway through round 1, was Kripstas Porzingis who has been out since midway through the first round against Miami with a lingering calf injury. His return could prove dividends, and add length, and more shotmaking, to the team with the best offensive rating this season. Depth aside, the Celtics' lack of urgency at times in their games, as well as their inconsistency on both ends of the floor, is truly something that has to be considered when going up against the Western Conference Champs. 

Dallas Would Not Denied 

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) celebrates with guard Luka Doncic (77) during the second half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Dallas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

The Mavs path to the Finals began last season, when the team finished 10th in the West, and the same old conversation came up: Kyrie isn’t a team player, and Dallas can’t succeed with two top dogs, in Doncic and Irving, who are just in it for themselves. Dallas' duo sought to shut down the talk, and their first step to doing this was finishing 18 games over 500, and 5th in the west. Luka set more records, and Kyrie started looking like the Kyrie of old, with some more veteran poise, but like with the Celtics, the question arose, can this team get over the championship hump.

One thing is for sure, they have championship experience with 2011 NBA champion Jason Kidd at the helm coaching, and of course, Kyrie Irving who won a championship alongside Lebron back in 2016. Beating a familiar foe in the Clippers in 6, and two up and coming contenders in the OKC Thunder in 6, and the Timberwolves in 5, the Mavericks have used veteran leadership, and their key acquisitions of Power Forward PJ Washington, Center Daniel Gafford, and Derrick Jones Jr. who has proven he will dunk on just about anybody, to add a new combination of size, shooting and a new tenacity, and grit to their play that has put them at the top of the West.

Another big part of the Mavs success was in-house, with Luka Doncic’s transformation from being just a bucket-getter, to making winning plays on both ends of the floor.

Doncic said that he and Kyrie are “the Old Heads”, in Dallas, and with the team's 2 stars having confidence in their experience, this might just be the key to being the C’s. 

Final Thoughts

Kyrie returning to Boston, Luka vs Tatum, Kidd vs Mazulla, are among the various narratives the NBA world is chattering about going into the start of this year's NBA Finals. But at the end of the day it's going to come down to whose stars step up in the clutch, and whose supporting cast is going to bring the energy throughout each game.

Kyrie says he’s ready for his return to Boston that will surely be met with BOOs, and Jayson Tatum says the Celtics are ready to use everything they’ve learned from their failures in the past to try to get Banner 18 in Boston.

You can tune in to the battle of these two titans June 6th at 8:30 PM, primetime on ABC.

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