NBA Finals odds, picks: Celtics vs. Mavericks Game 2 best bets with props for Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis

Now that the 2024 NBA postseason has begun, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will be providing daily picks for the duration of the postseason. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick for every game between now and the NBA Finals.

The Celtics won Game 1 by 18 points, but the line only moved by half of a point. There are obvious reasons to expect some degree of regression in Game 2. The Celtics made nine more 3-pointers than the Mavericks in Game 1, for instance, and even if Boston is likely to win the 3-point battle in the series, a margin like that isn’t sustainable. Dereck Lively II probably doesn’t get into foul trouble quite so quickly. Kyrie Irving probably doesn’t shoot 6 of 19. Lost in that logic is that the Celtics didn’t exactly play a great game either. It might feel like they shot the lights out after making seven 3s in the first quarter, but they only hit 38.1% of their triples in the game, below their season average. Jayson Tatum barely scored. They missed free throws and didn’t attack the rim nearly as much as they could have. Ultimately, for reasons we’ll get into in later picks, the issues Boston posed for Dallas were bigger than just shooting variance. They are unsolvable schematic problems. The Celtics are at a major advantage here, and a seven-point line is warranted. The Pick: Celtics -7

There is no line-movement in Game 2 on the point total, which came 18.5 points below this line in Game 1. I have an easier time believing we see a more offensive Game 2. Aside from shooting variance in favor of the Mavericks, the two teams combined to miss 13 free throws. Dallas had only nine assists as a team. These numbers aren’t coming out of nowhere, but they’re a bit out of whack. Boston still has the advantage, but the series shouldn’t be tilted quite this heavily to defense. The Pick: Over 214.5

The books are still mostly treating Luka Doncic’s one-assist performance in Game 1 as a fluke. It wasn’t one. No, Doncic probably won’t be held to a single assist in Game 2, but Boston’s defense is designed to make him score, not pass. The Celtics have cleverly deployed Jayson Tatum as the primary defender of the Dallas centers knowing that they aren’t equipped to punish him in the post. Doing this makes it far harder for the Mavericks to run their preferred pick-and-rolls between Doncic and a center because Tatum can just switch onto Doncic from there. That takes away his favorite pass, the lob to his center, because the defense is no longer overcommitting to stop Doncic. There is always someone between him and his center. No team was better at preventing corner 3s all season than the Celtics, and that is the pass that Dallas rode to the Finals. Doncic will still find assists through sheer volume. He has the ball so often and passes so much that he’s not going to get held to one again. But the Celtics aren’t going to give him the ones he wants, and his only real counter is to kill them as a scorer. The Pick: Doncic Under 8.5 Assists

I covered the dilemma Dallas is facing with Kristaps Porzingis in more depth here. In short: Dallas can’t defend Porzingis with their centers. He plays too far away from the basket. If the Mavericks put their centers out there, Boston would be able to get to the rim at will. That means they frequently have to defend him with players that are significantly smaller than him. Luka Doncic, Derrick Jones Jr. and even Jaden Hardy got cracks at him in Game 1. The problem with that strategy is that it basically gives him uncontested mid-range jumpers whenever he wants them. As we saw in Game 1, that shot is basically automatic. There’s no adjustment here. The Mavericks can’t go out and find taller defenders. They can’t play two big men to cover this problem because they’d be sacrificing too much offensively to do so. This is just a persistent issue Dallas will have to deal with throughout the series. I don’t see how they’ll do so. The Pick: Porzingis Over 15.5 Points

Yes, I’m going back to the Porzingis well. The opposite side of the “Tatum defends centers” coin is that Porzingis can hide in a weak side help role mostly against Jones. Oklahoma City and Minnesota forced him to prove he could make corner 3s before they actually started guarding him, but Boston is so good at taking those away that in Game 1, he was really only open on the wing, closer to the top of the arc. Putting Porzingis in that slot against a shooter who isn’t a major threat allows him to hunt blocks and defend the rim fearlessly. I’m expecting another multi-block performance. The Pick: Porzingis Over 1.5 Blocks 

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