National Basketball Association
2024 NBA Conference finals picks: Look for Mavericks to upset, Celtics to roll
National Basketball Association

2024 NBA Conference finals picks: Look for Mavericks to upset, Celtics to roll

Updated May. 21, 2024 6:15 p.m. ET

The NBA playoffs have been electrifying, and the intensity is only going to increase now that we're down to the final four. 

For starters, now that the Denver Nuggets have been eliminated, we are guaranteed a new champion for the sixth year in a row. This is only the second time in NBA history that a team hasn't repeated in a six-year span. 

But that isn't the only sign of change. 

Not only are superstars like LeBron James, Stephon Curry, and Nikola Jokic missing, but this is the first time in league history that a current or former MVP is not on the final four teams.


RELATED: Jayson Tatum favored for Finals MVP; Edwards chasing

However, history's loss is our gain. 

With a new name being etched into the Larry O'Brien trophy this year, as well as a new promising superstar sitting on the Finals MVP throne, let's take a look at my picks to advance past the conference round and reach the NBA's promised land. 

Indiana Pacers vs. Boston Celtics

Indiana plays a legit nine-man rotation, which should help them bounce back quickly from a rugged seven-game series against New York

The problem is that Indiana was able to slow down a banged up Knicks team and win four of the last five games, mostly because they only had to stop one player: Jalen Brunson

Already a putrid defensive team to begin with, how are they going to stop Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown? Sure, it’s a revenge spot for Aaron Nesmith, who was drafted by Boston, but dumped after two disappointing seasons.

Indiana emptied the clip with defensive strategies last round, like full court pressing Brunson and trapping him aggressively. That said, Boston has had plenty of time to prepare for all of it. 

Celtics face Pacers in ECF, is this Boston's year to win it all?

The Pacers have been a very good home court team in the playoffs (6-0, four wins by double digits), but this is a defense that gave up 155, 118, 131 and 129 this season to Boston.

Maybe the Pacers come out fresh in the first quarter against a rested, confident group, but the Celtics have rolled in their two prior opening games, and they’ll pull away to comfortably cover.

If you want to bake in an off night for Boston from deep — see Game 2 each of the last two rounds — and maybe the Pacers fight like hell and steal another, I think Boston 4-2 at +400 isn’t the worst series pick.

If you are looking for game-to-game bets, I’ll be targeting Celtics player props on 3-pointers in several games. Indiana’s got a lazy defense that loves to collapse and isn’t disciplined. 

Overall, give me the C's in six.

PICK: Celtics to beat Pacers in 6 games (+400)

Dallas Mavericks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The public seems hot on Minnesota after a stunning comeback on the road over Denver in Game 7 to eliminate the defending champs. 

That said, I'm taking Dallas in this one. But I’m not sure that I like them at +145 to win the series when you can get Luka Doncic as the series MVP at +180. 

Who else could it be for Dallas? Kyrie Irving? He’s +1400.

I wrote in this space a few weeks ago about Dallas as the sneaky team to win the West, and despite two brutal Game 4 losses at home, Dallas bounced back to win each series.

Luka Dončić the next coming of Celtics legend Larry Bird? — Paul Pierce chimes in

Sure, Dallas shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers against OKC probably regresses some; of course, Luka only scoring 24.7 ppg after averaging 33.9 a game in the regular season might bump up, too.

Minnesota was built to take down Denver, with three big bodies to wear down Jokic. 

That 3-headed monster won’t be as much of a factor in this one, unless Minnesota wants to risk giving up a lot of 3-pointers.

The last time Rudy Gobert faced Luka Doncic in the playoffs was 2022. Gobert was annihilated to the point he was played off the floor in multiple games, registered a -34 in the series, and blocked zero shots in the final three games as he was destroyed in the pick and roll. 

The Jazz traded him a couple of months later.

When you add Kyrie Irving — another pick-and-roll star — to attack Gobert, we may see a lot more time from the much more athletic backup center Naz Reid.

If you missed my Mavs picks from earlier in the playoffs, I like the Mavs in six at +475. I’ll also be looking at Kyrie prop bets after a series in which he only averaged 15 PPG.

PICK: Mavericks to beat Wolves in 6 games (+475)

Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, "Coming Up Winners," in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010. Follow him @jasonrmcintyre.


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