Betting: Favorite picks, props for Celtics-Mavericks

Sports

The 2024 NBA Finals get underway Thursday with the Boston Celtics hosting the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of what’s expected to be a close, hard-fought series.

Which bets stand out in the Finals? Here are the series and prop bets our experts Andre Snellings, Eric Moody, Tyler Fulghum, Steve Alexander and Jim McCormick are looking to make.

Odds current as of publication time. For most current odds go to ESPN BET


Are you taking the Celtics (-225) or Mavericks (+180) to win the series?

Snellings: I have this series as essentially a toss-up, and at even money I might lean Celtics in 7. But it’s not even money, so I’m likely to have some stake in the Mavericks to win at almost 2-1 plus money. The Celtics, on the other hand, aren’t getting enough juice for me to bet them straight up.

Alexander: I’m all in on the Mavericks and personally feel like the odds should be closer to even. No team has been able to figure out how to slow Luka Doncic down and I’m not sure the Celtics can, either. The return of Kyrie Irving to Boston is also fascinating, and how he responds could easily determine the outcome of this series. I think Luka and the Mavs are going to feed off the Boston crowd’s negative energy and use it to their advantage.

Moody: Mavericks to win the series (+180). The Celtics are known for their defense, but so were the Timberwolves. We saw the outcome of that series. Minnesota led the league in points allowed per 100 possessions during the regular season, with the Celtics ranking third. Meanwhile, the Mavericks have the best player on the floor in Doncic, who is talented enough to exploit the Celtics’ defensive schemes just like he did against the Timberwolves. Dallas has been a completely different team since the trade deadline, especially after adding P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford. The Mavericks have a real shot at winning this series in six games.

McCormick: There is value in this Mavericks position given a peaking two-way approach and the fact the Celtics faced several sizable deficits throughout their Indiana series. The Mavericks have the clutch scoring avenues and the requisite grit to challenge the deep and prepared Celtics. I’m leaning to a Dallas upset over paying such a price to lean on the favored Celtics.

What are your favorite series bets?

Fulghum: I like the Mavericks +1.5 games (-125). I think they will win it, but as long as the series reaches a 7th game we have a cushion here. Doncic is the best player in the series and Boston might be softened by running through an injury-depleted Eastern Conference.

Snellings: Series total games over 5.5 games (-160). After the NBA Tradeline, when the Mavericks traded for their current starters at center and power forward, the Celtics had the best record in the NBA (25-6) but the Mavericks were tied for second at 22-9. The Mavericks then went on to soundly defeat both the Thunder (22-9 after deadline) and Timberwolves (21-10) in the playoffs. With the two clear-cut best teams in the NBA matching up, each skilled on both sides of the ball with multiple core superstars and strong role players, this has all the hallmarks of a long series. Per BPI, there is a 61% chance this series will last six games or longer.

McCormick: Series to go 7 games (+220). These are the shortest odds among the games played bets for the series, but the reasoning for a long series is sound. This also aligns with Fulghum’s take on the Mavericks +1.5 games. The premise is reasonable for a seven-game series given the high-floor output of this Dallas rotation in the wake of a momentous trade deadline. The size and two-way play added by the front office should support Doncic and Irving enough to take this series to the max.

Alexander: Mavericks exact series result 4-3 (+750). I’m already all in on the Mavs to win it all and my original prediction was in seven games, so I’m sticking with it. Dallas doesn’t get enough credit for their defense and it’s been outstanding in these playoffs. Additionally, I’m concerned the extended break before the Finals could work against Boston’s flow and we still don’t know how healthy Kristaps Porzingis really is and how long he’ll last before aggravating his injury. And if anyone can win Game 7 at Boston, it’s Luka.

Who are you taking for Finals MVP?

Fulghum: Luka Doncic (+200). This is actually my favorite way to bet on the series. I think the Mavericks claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy and there is very little chance they are able to do so without Doncic as the driving force. He enters the Finals leading all players this postseason in points, rebounds, assists, steals, threes and minutes. He is a singular force.

Alexander: Kyrie Irving (+1600). There are really only four options for this bet; Tatum or Jaylen Brown if you’re taking Boston, and Luka or Kyrie if you’re taking Dallas. And given that three of those odds are rather boring, I love going with Irving for the potentially big payday. He has a history with Boston, emotions will be running high, and if Dallas wins the championship Irving has a legitimate chance to win the MVP, especially if Luka is feeling generous.

Aside from MVP, is there a Luka Doncic bet that stands out to you?

McCormick: Doncic to record OVER 6.5 assists in each game. The Celtics’ point-of-attack defense will hound Doncic and propel more late-possession passing from the superstar, aiding his shot at surpassing this passing prop each game. Such a heliocentric offense is a rarity this deep into the playoffs, but it’s also a highly projectable scheme that should afford Doncic tons of potential assists.

Alexander: Doncic most total rebounds in series (+185). The man is a walking triple-double and outrebounded Tatum 9.2 to 8.1 during the regular season. Tatum has the edge in the playoffs, but it’s rather close with Tatum at 10.4 per game and Doncic at 9.6 per game. Luka’s ability to hit double digits in boards every time out combined with the Celtics being rather thin/injured in the middle (how healthy is Porzingis? Al Horford is 38 years old) gives Luka a reasonable chance to rack up a ton of boards in this series. And given that Doncic is +185 vs. Tatum being at -110 makes Luka worth the reach, at least for me.

What are your favorite prop/special bets?

Fulghum: Tatum OVER 9.5 rebounds in each game of series (+1100). This is a fun longshot bet that I don’t mind. Tatum has recorded 10+ rebounds in 11 of 14 postseason games (78.5%) while averaging 10.4 per game. Dallas is not a particularly strong rebounding team and now that we’re in the Finals I see no reason why Tatum isn’t playing 42+ minutes every game.

Alexander: Doncic to make the most 3-pointers in the series (Even). Yes, Boston lives and dies with the 3-point shot but so does Dallas and as we’ve all seen thus far, when Luka’s shot is falling he’s basically unstoppable from beyond the arc. I see no reason that he’s not going to explode from downtown in most games in this series and this appears to be the season of Luka. He’s going to have to get hot from long range if the Mavs are going to win this series and Luka is the hottest 3-point shooter on the planet right now. I like the even money for him to come through here.

Moody: Tatum to make OVER 1.5 3-pointers in each game in the series (+250). He’s struggled from beyond the arc in the postseason, shooting a dismal 29%. However, Tatum has averaged 7.1 3-point attempts per game. I believe Tatum will shoot better from the outside in this series. The Celtics have taken 47.4% of their field goal attempts from 3-point range in the postseason, the highest rate in the league. It’s also worth mentioning that Tatum has cleared this line in 84% of his games this season.

Snellings: Daniel Gafford to record OVER 3.5 rebounds in each game in the series (+150). Gafford has at least four rebounds in 14 of his last 15 playoffs games and is averaging 6.6 RPG during that stretch. In the Mavericks’ one playoffs series against a stretch-5 with similar shooting ability to the Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford — vs. Chet Holmgren and the Thunder — Gafford averaged 7.5 RPG with at least five boards in all six games. This bet feels like strong value at plus money.

Moody: Dereck Lively II to record OVER 5.5 rebounds in each game in the series (+450). The rookie has been a key contributor for the Mavericks during their run to the Finals. Lively has averaged 7.2 rebounds per game in the playoffs, playing 21.8 minutes per game. This series presents an opportunity for him to shine even more, and I could see Lively absorbing more of Gafford’s minutes. This was one prop bet that immediately caught my attention.

McCormick: Tatum to lead series in scoring (+275). Healthy odds support Tatum’s bid to fill box scores at a better clip than Doncic. With the potential to have a few high-ceiling scoring outcomes in this series, claiming the overall crown isn’t so unlikely for this three-level scorer.

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