Celtic Pride or Luka Magic? 2024 NBA Finals Preview

June 06, 2024

A thrilling 2023-24 season concludes with an NBA Finals bout between the Mavericks and Celtics, tipping off Thursday evening in Boston. 

This is a battle between two franchises that have been among the game’s elite for the better part of the last two-and-a-half decades. These are also teams that have been linked due to players, coaches and executives having experience with each organization.

Boston is pursuing banner No. 18, which would break a tie with the Lakers for the most in league history. It would be the first championship for the Celtics since 2008 and redemption after coming up short against L.A. in 2010 as well Golden State two years ago. 

In their third Finals appearance, the Mavericks are hoping to come away with their second title, after last coming away victorious in 2011. It was a chip that capped off one of the greatest postseason runs the Association has ever witnessed. Shout-out Dirk Nowitzki.

Let’s look at how these teams got here. 

The top-seeded Celtics (64-18) finished the regular season with the league’s best record and kept things rolling in the postseason. Boston had little trouble extinguishing the Heat, winning their opening series in five games. They came out victorious against the Cavs in the second round, also in five. Finally, in the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston leaned on its veteran experience to sweep the Pacers.

Boston has looked dominant on both ends of the floor, averaging 111.4 (second best) points per game while allowing just 101.3 (third) over these playoffs.

The fifth-seeded Mavericks (50-32), much like in 2011, have gone through quite the gauntlet, knocking off some of the league’s best talents to make it out of the wild, wild West.

Dallas needed six games to edge past the Clippers, then defeated the top-seeded Thunder in the conference semis in another six-game tilt. A stunning 3-0 start to the West finals sparked a 4-1 series victory over a feisty Minnesota team. The Mavericks advanced this far by using a clutch style that’s the essence of the game: scoring more points than the opponent at the right moments.

One of the biggest questions is if Luka Dončić can continue playing at his all-world level. He’s been the player of the playoffs, averaging 28.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.8 assists, along with 1.6 steals. He’s amassed eight 30-point outings so far, with four coming against Minnesota last series as he clinched WCF MVP honors. What he’s doing in the playoffs has been an extension of a stellar campaign that featured his first scoring title, his fifth consecutive All-NBA First Team selection and a third-place finish in MVP voting. Does the 25-year-old have any “Luka Magic” left in store?

Here are a few additional bits and storylines to follow:

  • Triples Galore. Both teams have shot the ball lights-out from downtown this postseason. Boston averaged 14.6 treys over its run to the championship round, while Dallas buried 12.6.
  • Clutch will be Key. Both teams figured out how to pull out close games in the final minutes. The one who continues that in the Finals will likely take the trophy.
  • Pulling the Right Strings. The Mavs and Celtics both made key trades either prior to or during the season that helped flesh out their rosters around their franchise cornerstones. The acquisitions have proven to be well worth the moves, as role players on each side have stepped up in big moments. Notably, Kristaps Porziņģis and Kyrie Irving will both square off against their former squads.

As you enjoy the action of the 2024 NBA Finals, be on the lookout for Panini Instant cards throughout the series that highlight pristine player performances and all the top moments. 

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