2024 NBA Finals Betting Trends, Odds, Key Matchups

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One of the NBA’s recent juggernaut teams will meet one of the league’s best players as the NBA Finals open on Thursday.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will lead the Boston Celtics, who the NBA Finals odds have pegged as heavy favorites, against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Tatum and Brown seek to finish the job and solidify a successful Boston era, while Doncic could lift his already strong career to new heights.

NBA Finals odds & analysis

All betting data below is via BetMGM this week. The following table displays NBA championship odds for this Celtics vs. Mavericks matchup.

Current OddsTicket%Handle%
Boston Celtics-22515%20%
Dallas Mavericks+18085%80%
Data per BetMGM on June 3

The Celtics are considerable favorites to win the title, as their -225 odds indicate a 69.2% implied probability. They are only at 15% of the tickets and 20% of the handle, though, so perhaps bettors do not see value.

The smaller return could be the driving force. A $10 bet on Boston to win would net about $4.40 in profit, while a $10 wager on Dallas would return $18 in profit.

To further zoom into how the public is betting, the next table contains exact outcome odds, ticket percentage, and handle percentage.

Current OddsTicket%Handle%
Celtics 4-0+5004.3%5.2%
Celtics 4-1+3007.8%6.5%
Celtics 4-2+35022.7%16%
Celtics 4-3+45011.6%26.5%
Mavericks 4-0+25007.8%4.4%
Mavericks 4-1+150013.3%14.1%
Mavericks 4-2+40017.6%14.7%
Mavericks 4-3+60014.9%12.6%
Data per BetMGM on June 4

The most popular bet at BetMGM is Boston to win 4-2, and the Celtics prevailing 4-3 easily owns the largest handle percentage of any other exact outcome. Overall, 34.3% of tickets and 42.5% of the handle are on them to win in six or seven games.

A sweep in either direction only accounts for 9.6% of the handle, so bettors have been reluctant to predict utter domination. Given the talent level of both teams, along with the 3-point line’s added shooting variance, it’s reasonable to be cautious.

Here is what the historical data shows on series outcomes over the past 47 NBA Finals matchups since the NBA-ABA merger:

Key matchups & strategies

Which matchups and adjustments will be crucial for dictating the outcome of these lines?

Boston’s defensive strategy against Luka Doncic

Limiting Doncic is an instant headache for defenses. He’s a dynamic, polished scorer who can get to his spots with ease. If defenses blitz him on ball screens or help on drives from the weak side, then Doncic’s all-time passing ability has a chance to find the open shooter or cutter. To double or not to double, that is the question.

First, Boston will likely need to assess whether it has the personnel to survive should it consistently show him single coverage. Derrick White and Payton Pritchard are too small to handle Doncic’s 6-foot-7 frame, and Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford lack the foot speed to stay attached. However, Boston can also throw Jrue Holiday, Brown, and Tatum at him. All three possess enough strength, length, and speed to slow down some of Doncic’s typical advantages.

Second, Boston needs to consider whether Dallas’ offense is more dangerous when Doncic enters scoring mode or instead slings the basketball around the court as a distributor. Based on roster makeup, it’s likely the latter. Outside of Kyrie Irving, the Mavericks are riddled with play-finishers who rely on others to create advantageous situations.

For example, Derrick Jones Jr., P.J. Washington, Daniel Gafford, Dereck Lively II, and Josh Green do not possess the chops to beat single coverage off-the-dribble against Boston’s elite defense. Therefore, they are likely not making much of an impact if Boston stays tethered and denies them clean catch-and-shoot looks or open lobs.

Overall, the correct answer is to mix defensive coverages, as one philosophy alone likely won’t work for an entire series. The bulk of the Celtics’ scheme may need to be built around defending Doncic straight up, though. A tangible example of a potential adjustment for coach Joe Mazzulla could be Boston marking Gafford with Tatum instead of Porzingis.

This strategy would allow the Celtics to seamlessly switch against Doncic, which would not be ideal with Porzingis in the action. Because Jones Jr. is not a huge perimeter threat, Boston could place Porzingis on him and have the big man slightly sag inside to potentially deter drivers or rim threats.

Dallas’ center rotation

Gafford has started every contest for the Mavericks this postseason and evenly split playing time with Lively. He was effective against Minnesota’s immense size and Oklahoma City’s weak rebounding, but it may be time to slightly pivot away from him.

Boston ranked seventh in opponent offensive rebound rate during the regular season. If Gafford struggles to impose his will on the glass and rack up put-backs, that limits his value.

Additionally, Porzingis and Horford are lethal stretch-fives, so Lively’s superior quickness could be a huge asset against Boston’s shooting. Essentially, Dallas requires a center who can fluidly move out on the perimeter and occasionally survive on switches. That describes Lively far more than Gafford.

Finally, Lively’s short roll playmaking can punish Boston more than Gafford if the Celtics blitz Doncic in the pick-and-roll. The added offensive versatility is a major plus for Lively here. Gafford should still see a decent amount of playing time, but Lively snagging a larger share of the minutes may pay huge dividends.

NBA Finals MVP odds & analysis

In addition to series outcomes, the Finals MVP award is a popular prop for bettors.

Round 1 OddsCurrent OddsTicket%Handle%
Luka Doncic+1800+20016.3%19.6%
Kyrie Irving+12500+180013.4%11.2%
Jaylen Brown+950+6259.3%9.1%
Jayson Tatum+260-1207.5%13.6%
Derrick White+8000+30005.6%2.7%
Jrue Holiday+15000+66002.5%0.8%
Kristaps Porzingis+2200+50000.8%1%
P.J. WashingtonOff the board+300000.3%0.0%
Dereck Lively IIOff the board+500000.2%0.1%
Daniel GaffordOff the board+300000.1%0.0%
Al HorfordOff the board+250000.1%0.0%
Derrick Jones Jr.Off the board+300000.1%0.0%
Data per BetMGM on June 3

Tatum earned All-NBA First Team honors this season, and he’s favored over the field to secure the Finals MVP. Given that he is the best player on the heavy favorites, it’s not surprising to see his line this short.

Doncic winning is the second-most likely outcome based on his +200 odds. The Slovenian leads the pack in ticket and handle percentage by a decent margin.

Finally, Irving will be a name to monitor throughout the series. He opened at +12500 odds at the start of the playoffs, which means that a $10 wager at that point would stand to net $1,250 in profit. The veteran and former champion has seen his odds shift to +1800, and that will likely shorten even further should Dallas take an early lead.

Photo by Associated Press