NBA Finals Predictions 2024: Celtics Escape With Game 1 Win, But Concern Lingers

Get the latest NBA Finals predictions, props odds, and more as our experts break down the action leading up to the East vs. West showdown.

Publishing Editor
May 22, 2024 • 12:08 ET • 4 min read
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Playoffs are in full swing, and most of our NBA Finals Predictions have been sunk, with the defending champion Denver Nuggets eliminated by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are still NBA odds favorites for the title, escaping with a Game 1 win in the Eastern Conference Finals after the Indiana Pacers made like a Reggie Miller meme and heavily choked down the stretch. The Wolves and Dallas Mavericks begin their WCF clash Wednesday night.

Throughout the playoffs, stay tuned here as we bring you updated betting analysis, the latest props markets, and other postseason news as the NBA championship odds heat up.  

NBA Finals expert predictions

Writer Western Conference Finals winner Eastern Conference Finals Winner NBA Finals Winner NBA Finals MVP
Jason Logan Rory Breasail Timberwolves Celtics Timberwolves Timberwolves Anthony Edwards
Andrew Caley Andrew Caley Mavericks Celtics Mavericks Mavericks Luka Doncic
Joe Osborne Douglas Farmer Timberwolves Celtics Timberwolves Timberwolves Anthony Edwards
Jason Logan Jason Logan Timberwolves Celtics Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum
Jon Metler Jon Metler Mavericks Celtics Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum
Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy Timberwolves Celtics Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum
Rohit Ponnaiya Rohit Ponnaiya Timberwolves Celtics Celtics Celtics Jayson Tatum

Picks made prior to the conference finals.

NBA Finals favorites

Eastern Conference - Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics spent the last month of the regular season in cruise control, long since wrapping up homecourt throughout the playoffs. 

Early depth concerns after gutting their rotation to acquire Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis were mitigated by just how dominant Boston's Top 6 has been, while the likes of Sam Hauser, Luke Kornet, and even Payton Pritchard rose to the occasion all season. 

The Celtics cruised through the playoffs' first two rounds (and are appearing to do so again in the ECF), but subtle concerns have persisted among pundits and the fanbase's more cynical members (more on that below). 

Jayson Tatum remains a comfortable NBA Finals MVP odds favorite, still seen as the alpha on a team rich with star talent. 

Western Conference - Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves exchanged haymakers with the defending champs for seven games, and despite dropping three straight games to land on the brink of elimination, battled back for a destructive Game 6 win, then, on the road no less, pulled off the biggest Game 7 comeback ever to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Awaiting them is a Dallas Mavericks that has been simply elite on defense through the postseason and getting huge performances from its band of role players, while Luka Doncic has looked hobbled, and Kyrie Irving's been selectively dormant.

It should be a compelling series, with one of the league's ascendent superstars breaking through to the Finals, but Anthony Edwards' swagger looks very tough to deny right now, and the momentum of toppling the defending champs will give Minny one hell of a confidence boost, having inarguably had the most impressive run through the playoffs thus far. 

Should Celtics be worried?

The Celtics are still the odds-on NBA championship odds favorites, but that may have as much to do with their once-biggest foes falling one-by-one (of the teams with the Top 7 opening odds to win the championship, Boston's the only one remaining) as anything the Celtics have done for the past month. 

While their 9-2 record and 11.6 net rating in the playoffs are stellar on the surface, there remains perhaps-legitimate concern that these Celtics haven't exactly overcome past playoff flops. 

The reliance on 3-point variance creates constant swings. The crunch-time offense remains very hero-ball-y. The home track record speaks for itself (and not fondly). And while Tatum's unquestionably a Top-10 player, he's probably raised the most doubts about his playoff consistency of anyone in that tier (save the possible argument about Joel Embiid's health).  

Boston was gifted a cakewalk to the Eastern Conference Finals, and looked much shakier than it should've trying to close out a mismatched Cavs team missing its two best players and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The Celts then fumbled multiple double-digit leads in Game 1 against the Pacers, and ultimately didn't win the game so much as Indiana lost it, with a closing stretch marred by questionable execution and a string of brain-fart turnovers from both teams. Indiana just sucked more.

ESPN wasn't "hating", just stating facts. The Celtics haven't been able to get over the hump, largely because they've failed to play their best ball on the biggest stage, and consistently assert themselves over weaker foes. 

2024's first two rounds did very little to truly test the Boston, and even then, cracks showed. Yes, Kristaps Porzingis — a huge part of this team's identity — will return soon, but it's never a good sign when Marcus Morris, in the year 2024, is carrying an underdog and keeping it in a playoff game against you.

The Wolves just devoured the defending champs, the Mavs look very f***ing serious and don't even have Kyrie in peak form, and Indiana — despite its gaffes to close the biggest game 90% of its rotation ever played in — proved very much it's here for a fight.

I'm not sure about you guys, but the Cetlics sure as hell don't look like odds-on favorites to me right now.

Clipped too short

In 2019, the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off what many in the NBA called a coup when they snagged then-reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Paul George within days of each other, joining two of the NBA's truly elite two-way swingmen.

It was a move that was supposed to make them instant title contenders, but five years, several playoff collapses, and approximately 183 nebulous Leonard injuries later, we've yet to see this Clippers unit play truly dominant basketball for more than 20 games or so at a time. 

Leonard inevitably went down against the Mavericks — playing just two games in the series, and clearly not himself — further handcuffing a team that had already done the exact opposite of "peak at the right time". 

This latest postseason setback puts the Clippers at a critical crossroads this offseason, facing difficult questions about everything from Leonard's health, to the roster's age, and what — if any — flexibility remains to retool this unit without completely detonating it. 

While the Leonard signing was a no-brainer, and the George trade a must-make gamble, the price LAC paid was massive (a zillion draft picks and some dude named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), and the potential downside of that summer is being realized in full. 

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2024 NBA Finals props odds

DraftKings sportsbook had offered an array of NBA playoff odds props for the eventual 2024 NBA title winner. While more markets, such as Division to Win and State to Win were available earlier in the postseason, we're down to just two NBA Finals winner specials (odds as of 5-22-24).

Conference to win the NBA Finals

We were looking at a dead heat between the East for this year's title for most of the first round, but after the Nuggets' elimination against Minny, those odds have shifted slightly, to East -180 and West +145.

First-Time winner

Now down to just four teams, we have a 50% probability of a franchise winning its first NBA title (either Minnesota or Indiana). However, the odds are tilted rather heavily towards the Celtics-Mavs duo representing the "No" contingent at -330, while the "Yes" comes back at +255.

2024 NBA Finals Schedule

Game Date/Time Venue
Game 1 June 6 @ TBA TBA
Game 2 June 9 @ TBA TBA
Game 3 June 12 @ TBA TBA
Game 4 June 14 @ TBA TBA
Game 5 (if necessary) June 17 @ TBA TBA
Game 6 (if necessary) June 20 @ TBA TBA
Game 7 (if necessary) June 23 @ TBA TBA

2023 NBA Finals

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