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Setting The Pick – NBA Finals Betting Preview­

Boston Celtics Jayson Tatum Jayson Tatum - The Canadian Press

It’s been two very different paths for the two NBA finalists.

Out of the East, the Boston Celtics bulldozed their way to a 12-2 record, with their two losses due to anomalous three-point shooting.

Each of their three opponents had a superstar absent and never stood a chance.

Out West, the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks fought through three of the top-six championship favourites heading into the postseason.

Luka Doncic and company defeated their old foes, the LA Clippers, who were responsible for the first two playoff exits of Doncic's career.

They defied the odds against the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder and their MVP runner-up, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Then, on Thursday night, they officially punched their ticket to the Finals by knocking out the NBA’s top defence, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who ousted the defending champs.

The Celtics have been the championship favourite since preseason, while the Mavericks were a legitimate risk of falling into the play-in tournament a month before the playoffs.

Now with a full week in between rounds, the NBA talking heads are going to have a field day building up storylines for this matchup.

For our purposes, let’s go through some early betting considerations as we prepare for this tantalizing NBA Finals.

A bold message if Brown gets back-to-back trophies

Jaylen Brown was this year’s Larry Bird trophy recipient squeaking by fellow superstar Jayson Tatum in a 5-4 vote.

Despite scoring more points, having a better net rating, and doubling Brown in rebounds and assists, the media felt Tatum didn’t do enough to earn the Eastern Conference Finals MVP award over his teammate.

These two stars have shared the stage in Boston for seven years now, and there’s been endless debate about who is this team's alpha.

The stats clearly point to Tatum, and the historical All-NBA voting echoes the same thoughts.

So, when Brown was surprisingly handed the Larry Bird trophy much to his dismay, all he could do was laugh about it.

Oddsmakers will tell you they were caught off guard as well. The following tweet shows you how confident they were in Tatum’s impending win.

At the end of the day, pricing markets like this are tough because stats alone won’t dictate the outcome. It’s all about predicting how media members intend to exercise their vote.

Looking ahead to the NBA Finals, the result of the ECF MVP voting should have you leaning towards Tatum if you like Boston to win it all.

It’d be an undeniable message sent by the media if Brown wins a second MVP trophy over his teammate.

In six postseason runs together, Tatum has averaged more points than Brown every year.

While there’s a world where Brown outplays his teammates and truly earns the trophy, probability stands on Tatum’s side.

14 of the last 15 NBA Finals MVPs have gone to the team’s best performing player; Andre Iguodala is the lone exception.

If you plan on betting the Celtics to win, skip the -220 Finals price and go with Tatum -120 for MVP which offers an 84 per cent higher return.

The Play – Tatum Finals MVP (if you like Boston)

Dallas has the best closer and opener

Boston might have the better team, but Dallas has the best player.

Not only was Doncic a finalist for MVP this season, but he’s also been ahead of Tatum in MVP voting four of the previous five seasons.

I’m not here to debate how Tatum’s defensive impact might make him a better two-way player, I’m here to find a bet worth cherry-picking.

As we’ve witnessed throughout these playoffs, Doncic is simply a cold-blooded killer in the clutch.

His three-ball to end Game 2 versus Minnesota is what legends are made of.

For as reliable as he is in the fourth quarter, he’s equally dangerous to open games.

A true leader, Doncic sets the tone for Dallas every game by putting defences on their heels and opening up the floor for his teammates.

During this postseason, he’s averaged 9.6 points in the first quarter, which can be extrapolated to a 38.4 ppg.

All playoffs, his first-quarter point prop was set at 7.5, a line that he covered in 13-of-17 games.

In their series clincher, we saw the peak of his powers as he dropped 20 points in the opening quarter.

Doncic gets particularly locked in on the road averaging 10.9 ppg over nine playoff games.

Don’t be surprised if he sets the tone early for Game 1.

The Play – Doncic over first-quarter points

The more vengeful ex

Much has already been made of Irving’s impending return to Boston.

In recent Celtics history, he’s arguably the most hated alumni.

Lost in all the noise is former Maverick Kristaps Porzingis, whose tenure with Dallas also ended on unfavourable terms.

When Porzingis was brought in from New York in 2019, he was coming off an All-Star season and promised to be a budding one-two punch with Luka for years to come.

By the 2022 trade deadline, he was sent off for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, two forgotten role players who don’t even average double-digit points for their current teams.

Now, on the grandest of stages, Kyrie and Zinger have a chance to redeem themselves.

So, which player is better suited to overachieve?

At this stage, I’d have to go with Irving and his scoring.

While Boston has two All-NBA wing defenders, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, they still managed to let Tyrese Haliburton get hot from deep before going down with an injury.

Before leaving Game 2, Hali was shooting 8-of-20 from deep and was on pace for back-to-back games with 10 or more assists.

In the Conference Semi-Finals, Donovan Mitchell was averaging 31.7 ppg and hitting 5.3 threes per game before sitting out the final two matchups of that series.

While I can’t endorse Irving’s scoring line set at 23.5 points, I think he’s equipped to cover 2.5 threes in Game 1.

He’s hit the fifth-most threes this postseason and doing it at a 42.1 per cent clip; he’s also scored three or more treys in 10-of-17 games.

Boston’s defence has been particularly focused on taking away looks at the rim while giving up the second-most attempts from above the break.

Irving takes 88 per cent of his three-pointers from that zone and might favour those shots versus testing Boston’s size.

On the flip side, all signs point to Porzingis being ready for Game 1.

While it’s encouraging to see him getting shots up from deep, it’s remains to be seen how prepared he is for the physicality of Dallas’ interior defence.

The Mavericks were surprisingly effective on the glass against Minnesota who averaged the eighth-most rebounds this season.

Rudy Gobert was limited to 7.6 rpg versus the Mavs after finishing second in the NBA at 12.9 rpg during the regular season.

Porzingis only averaged 5.0 rpg in their opening series versus Miami and could take time ramping up to full minutes.

At the time of writing, his line on FanDuel is 6.5 rebounds and I think that’s one of the better unders to target ahead of the Finals.

The Play – Irving over 2.5 threes, Porzingis under 6.5 rebounds