NBA Finals: Key storylines, full schedule and how to watch

Matias Grez, CNN | 6/6/2024, 12:07 p.m.
After eight months of grueling competition, 30 teams have been whittled down to just two.
Jayson Tatum is heading to his second Finals. Mandatory Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

After eight months of grueling competition, 30 teams have been whittled down to just two.

The Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks are the last teams standing and will face off in the 2024 NBA Finals, which begin at TD Garden on Thursday, for a chance to etch their names into the history books.

How to watch

The NBA Finals will be broadcast exclusively on ABC in the United States.

In the UK, BBC One and TNT Sports will air the Finals, but international fans can also watch the best-of-seven series on NBA League Pass.

Celtics juggernaut?

photo  Kyrie Irving has carried the Mavericks at times with Dončić struggling with injury. Mandatory Credit:David Berding/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

With 64 wins, the Celtics were by far the most dominant team throughout the regular season and have continued that impressive run into the playoffs, losing just two games all postseason.

However, those wins come with the slight caveat of the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers missing key players – Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell and Tyrese Haliburton, respectively – for all or part of those series.

Regardless, the Celtics have taken care of business in a supremely efficient manner this postseason and will be hoping that second-year head coach Joe Mazzulla can finally push the team over the top.

The Celtics have enjoyed incredible playoff consistency in recent seasons. This is the sixth time in eight years the franchise has reached at least the Conference Finals and the second time in three years Boston has reached the Finals. The coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy, however, has so far eluded them.

Victory in this year’s Finals would give the Celtics a record-breaking 18th NBA title, taking them past the Los Angeles Lakers as the most successful franchise in the league.

Critics and opponents have at times maligned the Celtics as having a soft underbelly, with key players or the team as a whole struggling in the biggest moments; both last year’s shock loss to the No. 8 seed Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and Jayson Tatum’s performances in the 2022 NBA Finals being examples of these concerns.

photo  Jaylen Brown was voted ECF MVP. Mandatory Credit:Justin Casterline/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

“There’s a lot that myself and we can learn from that experience, being in the Finals,” Tatum told reporters. “This go-around is a lot different. Obviously, we’ve been there before and we came up short. It’s a great opportunity to make it to Finals again, you don’t always get a second chance.

“I’m really just looking at it as a second chance, trying to simplify things as much as we can. It’s another series that we gotta win.

“Having nine days off [before the Finals] is good for your body and for everybody to get healthy, but we’re in the NBA Finals and we’re all so anxious and excited to play. I wish it did start a little bit earlier, so we could get after it, but we have a lot of guys of who been here before and we understand the magnitude of this moment and saying sharp, fresh and staying ready.”

But the team has shown impressive mettle this postseason, in particular in the Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Three times in that series, the Celtics found themselves down late but turned each of the games around to earn a sweep, thanks largely to series MVP Jaylen Brown.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Pacers had at least a 90% win probability during the fourth quarters of Games 1, 3 and 4.

Can Luka emulate Dirk?

While the Celtics have been on a roll since day one, the Dallas Mavericks didn’t really turn their season around until February’s trade deadline.

The addition of more size and length in Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington has perfectly complimented the superstar backcourt of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving, who have taken turns carrying the team throughout this playoff run.

Meanwhile, Dereck Lively II is capping off a mightily impressive rookie season by becoming a valuable rotation piece for the Mavericks this playoff run, while Derrick Jones Jr. has grown as a player and made some huge buckets in the postseason.

photo  Can Luka Dončić lead the Mavericks to just their second NBA title? Mandatory Credit:David Berding/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

Though Dončić, who finished third in MVP voting, is still performing at a high level, a knee injury means he has struggled at times to reach the heights of the regular season; so much of Dallas’ success will rest on the Slovenian’s fitness and form.

Head coach Jason Kidd could further cement his place in Mavericks history by leading the team to the title. It has been 13 years since Kidd helped bring the franchise its first and only Larry O’Brien trophy as a player, assisting Dirk Nowitzki in a stunning Finals win over the Miami Heat.

“It was a tough road to get back here [the Finals],” Irving told reporters. “So I’m just appreciating all of the little steps that it took, appreciating all the people who helped me grow. It was a great reflection period the last couple of days just thinking about not only the past few years, but what we were able to accomplish this year in such a short period of time.

“How we galvanized the city of Dallas and our fans, and it just feels like we’ve got the whole world supporting us throughout this endeavor, so I’m appreciative and grateful for everything that I had to go through and everything my teammates had to go through in order to get here with me.”

Full schedule

All games are away vs. home

• Game 1: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 6 - 8:30 p.m. ET
• Game 2: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 9 - 8:00 p.m. ET
• Game 3: Celtics vs. Mavericks, June 12 - 8:30 p.m. ET
• Game 4: Celtics vs. Mavericks, June 14 - 8:30 p.m. ET
• *Game 5: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 17 - 8:30 p.m. ET
• *Game 6: Celtics vs. Mavericks, June 20 - 8:30 p.m. ET
• *Game 7: Mavericks vs. Celtics, June 23 - 8:00 p.m. ET

* If needed