Jun 6, 2024 - Sports

Your guide to Dallas Mavs vs. Boston Celtics NBA Finals

A graphic showing how NBA 2024 finalists Kyrie Irving, Kristaps Porziņģis and Grant Williams have overlapped across the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics rosters.
Photos: Getty Images; Graphic: Brendan Lynch and Jacque Schrag/Axios

Luka Dončić didn't get to watch the NBA Finals while growing up in Slovenia — games were usually on school nights and started in the middle of the night.

  • He was still paying attention though, AP reports, and dreaming of making it to the finals one day. Tonight, that dream becomes a reality for the 25-year-old star.

Why it matters: The Dallas Mavericks are playing in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2011, when they won their first championship.

The big picture: Game 1 starts at 7:30pm in Boston. The seven-game series is scheduled to end June 23, unless one team gets four wins before then.

  • The first finals game in Dallas will be Game 3 on Wednesday.

State of play: Dončić and Kyrie Irving, one of the NBA's strongest pairings, have a versatile team around them.

  • Tyson Chandler from the 2011 championship team practiced with rookie Dereck Lively II and other players this week to help them prepare for the finals.
  • Comedian Guillermo Rodriguez stopped by the team's media day to ask them funny questions, like why people say "Don't mess with Texas."
  • The team left for Boston on Tuesday.

Yes, but: This finals won't be easy.

  • The Boston Celtics have long been the betting favorite to win the championship. They won 64 of 82 regular season games — the NBA's best record this year — and swept the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The intrigue: Celtics fans boo Irving. He had two tumultuous seasons in Boston and left for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. The Nets traded Irving to the Mavericks in 2023.

  • The Celtics' Kristaps Porziņģis, who was a Mav from 2019-2022, is set to play in Game 1 after being out with a calf injury since late April.
  • "Me and KP have a good relationship. I don't know why people say otherwise," Dončić said on Tuesday, addressing reports that they didn't get along as teammates.

Who we're watching

Kyrie Irving: LeBron James has said Irving is "the most gifted player the NBA has ever seen." The two won the 2016 championship together while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

  • Despite leaving the Celtics, he's maintained a close relationship with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
  • "It's going to be adversarial on the court, it's going to be very competitive," Irving said, "but off the court, I mean, we know our family, know each other's families."

Jayson Tatum: The 26-year-old small forward is trying to solidify his status as one of the best Celtics players in a long time. This is his second chance at a championship trophy — the team lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals.

  • Tatum has averaged 35.5 points against Dallas this season, while Dončić has averaged 35 points in games against Boston.

Jaylen Brown: Brown's performance against the Pacers — both on offense and defense — got him the Eastern Conference Finals MVP award.

  • Brown, a shooting guard, has averaged 25 points per game in the playoffs, while Irving has averaged around 23 points.

Jordan Walsh: The 20-year-old Celtics rookie is originally from DeSoto.

  • "I didn't know how good, how far we would go. I definitely didn't expect the Mavs to be on the end of that road … it's very cool to see," he told the Dallas Morning News.

The X factors: Porziņģis had a rough time as a Mav but has been a better fit for the Celtics. "He's an underrated rim protector," Mavericks Coach Jason Kidd said on Tuesday.

  • Mavericks forward PJ Washington popped off in the second playoff series against Oklahoma City, scoring over 20 points in three of the games. He cooled off against the Timberwolves but could be fun to watch if he finds his rhythm again.

How to watch: ABC will broadcast the finals.

  • The American Airlines Center is hosting a watch party for Game 1 tonight. Tickets are $10, and sales will benefit the Mavs Foundation.
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