NBA playoffs 2024: Favorite picks, props for Celtics-Pacers, Wolves-Mavericks

How much pressure is on Jayson Tatum to lead the Celtics to a title? (1:28)

Alan Hahn and Austin Rivers discuss the pressure Jayson Tatum is under to produce a championship for the Celtics. (1:28)

The 2024 NBA playoffs roll on as the conference finals begin Tuesday in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics hosting the Indiana Pacers. In the Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves host the Dallas Mavericks for Game 1 on Wednesday.

Which bets stand out in the conference finals? Here are the series bets and props bets our experts Andre Snellings, Eric Moody, Tyler Fulghum, Steve Alexander and Jim McCormick are looking to make.

Odds current as of publication time. For most current odds go to ESPN BET

Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers

Favorite bets for the series

Tyler Fulghum: Pacers +2.5 games (+130). This line feels a bit disrespectful to the Pacers. We just need this to get to six games. Boston will be starting the series without Kristaps Porzingis. The Pacers were 2-3 vs. Boston in the regular season and we've seen the Celtics lose games at home in each of the first two rounds against Miami and Cleveland.

Eric Moody: Over 5.5 games in series (+125). Bettors may be surprised to find the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. Boston has been here six times in the last eight seasons, while Indiana hasn't since 2014. In Game 1, I'm looking forward to seeing how the Celtics' defense handles Tyrese Haliburton. This is a Boston team that's still without Kristaps Porzingis and has a history of struggling at home. This series will go over 5.5 games.

Steve Alexander: Pacers +600 to win the series. Yes, I'm from Indiana. Yes, I grew up in Market Square Arena. I picked the Pacers to lose to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals at the start of the season, but I like the odds being offered and I wouldn't put it past the Pacers to be playing in the Finals. I mean, nobody wins Game 7 at New York, right?

Jim McCormick: Celtics win series 4-1 (+165). Betting a five-game series outcome has +145 odds, but the implied outcome here is the Celtics cruising to a short series victory, thus, we'll take the better odds on the exact series prediction. While the Cavaliers were able to test the Celtics at times, Boston's waves of depth, shooting and defense combined to prove overwhelming. A similar outcome could unfold against a Pacers team reliant on pace and winning the possession battle. Such an approach seems more difficult against an efficient Boston team; one that is rested, getting healthy and can match the shooting volume Indiana thrives on. This reads like a quick ticket to the Finals for Boston.

Andre Snellings: Exactly seven games in the series (+425). This is a very specific bet, but it's a scenario I could see playing out. I think the Pacers steal one of the first two games in Boston. They have been playing at their highest edge for months to get into and through the playoffs, while the Celtics haven't played a high-stress game or necessarily their best ball since before clinching the best record in the NBA in March. Plus, the Celtics have lost one of the first two home games in each of the first two rounds. On the flip side, the Pacers haven't lost a home game for two months (since March). If they get that road split, the Celtics would have to work very hard to win a game in Indiana. I believe they do, which puts the series back on serve and gets this to seven games as both teams protect home court from there. At +425, this is a higher-risk reward for a scenario I consider likely.

Favorite prop bets

Fulghum: Jayson Tatum over 4.5 assists in each game of the series (+370). Tatum is going to be the engine of the offense for the Celtics. He had 5-plus assists in each game of the Cavs series, and I think he's a good bet to replicate that against an opponent that plays faster and less imposing defense in the Pacers.

Alexander: Jaylen Brown to be the leading scorer for the series (+450). Tatum is at -500 to be the series scoring leader and I think that it's either going to be Tatum or Brown. And for the measly payout that comes with Tatum, I'd rather roll the dice on Brown and hope he goes off. Unless Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner or Derrick White pull off a miracle, it's a safe bet that either Tatum or Brown will be the big scorer in this series.

McCormick: Tyrese Haliburton to record at least 6.5 assists in each game (+450). This might seem like a low bar, but the shot creation and infusion of T.J. McConnell's distribution minutes saw the league's leading assist producer in both total and average miss this mark three times over the course of the seven-game saga against the Knicks. The reason I am interested is twofold; the Celtics' point-of-attack defense between Jrue Holiday and White could compel Haliburton to go into playmaking mode more often versus finding his own shot, while I also think Boston's ability to collapse the floor against McConnell's lack of shooting and spacing influence could see him be less of a factor in this series.

Snellings: Jayson Tatum to make most total 3-pointers in the series (+700). Tatum has wielded the blowtorch against the Pacers this season. In four games against them, he averaged 32.5 PPG on 57.8 FG%, and 4.3 3PG on 48.8 3P%. The Pacers improved on defense after trading for Pascal Siakam, but in his one matchup against them post-trade, Tatum still dropped 30 points with four 3-pointers. And the Pacers got torched by big wing Khris Middleton in the first round of the playoffs, so the precedent for a player with Tatum's skill set to thrive against these Pacers has already been set.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Dallas Mavericks

Favorite bets for the series

Fulghum: Mavericks +1.5 games (-150). I absolutely love the Wolves. Their young core is going to be a problem in the Western Conference for a long time. However, as great as Anthony Edwards is, Luka Doncic is the best player in this series. The Mavs also have a bit more playoff seasoning than Minnesota. This will be a wildly fun series from game to game, but I think the Mavs advance.

Moody: Over 5.5 games in series (-160). After making an appearance two seasons ago, the Mavericks are back in the Western Conference finals, while the Timberwolves are here for the first time in 20 seasons. There's a good chance this will go seven games. Both the Mavericks and Timberwolves can win on the road. All the games in this series could have narrow spreads. This is going to be an entertaining series. Get your popcorn ready.

Alexander: Mavericks win the series 4-3 (+700). I'm not sure even Las Vegas knows what's going to happen in this series but I do know that Doncic will be the best player on the court, although I do love Edwards as well. Luka finally has a little playoff experience under his belt and the addition of a few big men, and Kyrie Irving has turned out to be a great move for Luka and the Mavs.

McCormick: Timberwolves win 4-2 (+440). Having ranked 18th in defensive rating in the regular season, elite defense is a newfound element to the Mavericks' profile during this impressive playoff surge. Dominance on that end is a staple, however, for the Timberwolves. The ability to confound the Mavericks' heliocentric offense, funneled through Doncic and Irving, appears more reasonable after seeing how well the team disrupted Denver's efficient offense over the course of a classic series. Combine the Timberwolves' unique size up front and switchable two-way wings, and you have a recipe for a six-game series victory aligned in Minnesota's favor.

Snellings: Timberwolves -1.5 games (+115). The Timberwolves have a big size advantage that the Mavericks will have difficulty countering. The Mavericks have a good center rotation, but both are interior players that can't play together. P.J. Washington is a good power forward, but he is only 6-7 against the 7-0 Towns and 7-3 Gobert. Plus, since the Mavs' centers can't stretch the floor, Gobert should have a dominant defensive impact that he couldn't when defending the dynamic Nikola Jokic. Edwards, Doncic and Irving are all great players, but this series will likely be won in the trenches.

Favorite prop bets

Fulghum: Luka Doncic to record over 9.5 rebounds in each game of the series (+10000). What a fun bet to sweat. Doncic is a walking triple-double, and after dealing with some knee issues earlier in these playoffs, he appeared to be getting stronger against OKC. In fact, he had 10-plus rebounds in each of the last five games of the series with the Thunder. This dart throw is worth it.

Moody: Anthony Edwards over 4.5 assists in each game in the series (+525). The Mavericks' defense has improved in the playoffs, ranking sixth in defensive rating (110.6), not far behind the Timberwolves (107.6). Defense will dominate this series, but Edwards should be busy as a facilitator. This season, he has cleared this line in 64% of his games, averaging 8.2 potential assists.

Alexander: Kyrie Irving +1500 to be the series' leading scorer. Doncic and Edwards catch most of the headlines, but let's not forget about Irving. He played passively against the Thunder in Round 2 but finally came through with a big game in the finale. The Mavericks are going to need Kyrie to be more selfish in this series and he could easily dominate, especially if Doncic and Edwards are struggling with their shot or draped in double-teams.

McCormick: Karl-Anthony Towns to score at least 14.5 points in each game (+200). The odds on this are a bit modest, but so is the ask of one of the league's most gifted three-level scorers. Confident in his touch after a brilliant round against Denver and increasingly efficient in the post, the Mavericks' lack of size past two foul-prone rim protectors reads like an ideal setup for Towns to thrive in lineups alongside Rudy Gobert.

Snellings: Anthony Edwards to score the most total points in the series (+125). Edwards is a very good scorer in the regular season, but he's an elite scorer in the playoffs. In his last two playoffs appearances, spanning 16 games, Edwards has averaged 29.8 PPG on 49.7 FG%. Edwards has at least 27 points in 11 of his most recent 15 playoffs games. While Doncic led the NBA in scoring this season, he appeared to be fighting injury and "only" averaged 24.7 PPG last round against the Thunder. The Timberwolves are a better defense than the Thunder, the best in the NBA, and have a good chance to keep Luka's scoring attenuated enough for Edwards to lead this series in scoring.