© 2024 88.9 KETR
Public Radio for Northeast Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Dallas Mavericks are in the NBA Finals. Here's what to watch for as Game 1 starts Thursday

The Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and Dallas Mavericks' Kyrie Irving are just two of the stars in this power-packed match-up.
Michael Dwyer/AP
/
AP
The Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and Dallas Mavericks' Kyrie Irving are just two of the stars in this power-packed match-up.

The Dallas Mavericks are in the NBA Finals, and their matchup against the Boston Celtics is absolutely loaded with compelling storylines.

Here’s a look at what to watch out for going into Game 1 Thursday night in Boston, which tips off at 7:30 a.m. on ABC.

How we got here

The Celtics have arguably been the best team in the NBA all year, earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and coasting to the Finals.

The Mavericks are the real surprise here: As the fifth seed in the Western Conference, they won three playoff series in which they were underdogs. If they're somehow able to win a fourth in that role, they would be the lowest-seeded team to win it all since the 1994-95 Houston Rockets.

Kyrie and Kristaps

Perhaps the most interesting story of these Finals is Kyrie Irving facing off against the team he played for from 2017-2019.

Irving’s two seasons with the Celtics were solid. But ever since a 2022 playoff game in which Irving — then playing for the Brooklyn Nets — got into it repeatedly with Celts fans and was fined $50,000 for doing so, he’s been Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston. Don’t be surprised if he gets booed every time he touches the ball in Game 1.

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving walks off the court with the Western Conference champions trophy after the Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5 of the NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Minneapolis. Irving will be a key player as the Mavs look to win their second-ever NBA championship.
Matt Krohn
/
AP
Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving walks off the court with the Western Conference champions trophy after the Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5 of the NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Minneapolis. Irving will be a key player as the Mavs look to win their second-ever NBA championship.

All of that animosity will likely overshadow another significant reunion when Kristaps Porzingis takes on his former team. Mavs fans don’t have near the hate for KP, whose three seasons in Dallas were mostly marked by injury and an inability to gel with a young Luka Doncic and coach Rick Carlisle.

Still, pro athletes are motivated by even the slightest of slights, so Porzingis will surely be looking to reward the Celtics for taking a chance on him.

Inside/outside

This one’s more for the basketball nerds out there, but these two teams offer a real contrast in styles.

The Celtics thrive in what’s known as a “five-out” action, in which all five players set up around the three-point arc and work a variety of screens to set up open three-point shots and drives to the basket.

This strategy takes away from one of the Mavericks’ biggest defensive strengths, which is allowing centers Daniel Gafford and Derek Lively to plant themselves near the basket and wait for the action to come to them before swatting the ball back out. With the five-out scheme, none of the offensive players are anywhere near the lane, forcing those bigger Mavericks to venture away from their comfort zone and guard players in space — a much tougher task.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks have excelled at having Doncic and Irving use their excellent ball-handling to drive to the basket and set up easy dunks for — you guessed it — Gafford and Lively.

The chess match between Mavs coach Jason Kidd and Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla – particularly how they adjust their strategies as the series unfolds – will be intriguing.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Stephen Becker