Skip to content

NBA Finals betting trends: Tatum's passing, Kyrie's struggles

Adam Glanzman / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Celtics' 3-point barrage led to a Game 1 win over the Mavericks, and their stifling defense carried them to victory in Game 2. Boston showed it can beat the Mavs in various ways as the deeper, more talented group.

The Celtics moved to -800 to win the series after taking a 2-0 series lead, while the Mavs jumped to +550. Dallas has an uphill battle to climb back in the series, but it's yet to play at home and is shooting 24% from three.

Let's dive into some player trends that are tilting the series.

Tatum's assists up, scoring down

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd knew what he was doing when he anointed Jaylen Brown the Celtics' best player before Game 2. Playing mind games in an attempt to cause friction between Brown and Jayson Tatum is the Mavs' best chance at a series win as it's become obvious Dallas doesn't match up against the Celtics.

But Kidd's actions speak louder than his words, and the Mavs' defensive strategy contradicts his bold proclamation.

Dallas' best defender - Derrick Jones Jr. - guards Tatum at the start of each possession. The five-time All-Star consistently breaks shoulders with his defender and strides to the second layer of defense, where the Mavs are loaded with help. Tatum constantly makes the right read, kicking to open 3-point shooters. Look at this snapshot of the Mavs' defensive attention on Tatum's drives:

Somehow, Tatum delivered that pass to the left corner for a Derrick White three. Tatum's drives force the Mavs into rotation, where the Celtics abuse teams better than anyone.

Boston's offense is predicated on drive-and-kick threes; it attempts almost as many threes as it does twos. Tatum is leading the charge, prioritizing open looks and unselfishly creating opportunities for his teammates, even if it comes at the expense of his scoring. By forcing Tatum to become a passer, his scoring is down and his assists have increased.

The All-NBA forward failed to reach his points prop in the first two games, scoring 16 points and 19 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Tatum's assist prop has stayed at 5.5 throughout the Finals. Tatum recorded 12 assists in Game 2 and five in Game 1, but he had 14 potential assists in that first contest, meaning his teammates botched many of his dimes. Tatum was one rebound shy of a triple-double in Game 2.

Tatum has stayed aggressive despite struggling with his jumper. He's shooting 31% from the field and 28% from three. Tatum's carrying a huge load defensively, which might contribute to his shooting woes. He's tasked with guarding Luka Doncic for long stretches and also matches up against Dallas' center. His defensive versatility is part of the reason the Mavs' offense has disappointed, but it can take away from his offense.

Tatum, for some reason, has been a more dominant and efficient scorer on the road than at home this postseason. He's averaging 28.3 points away from home during the playoffs and 22.8 points in Boston. Tatum's points prop is set at 25.5 for Game 3 in Dallas.

The Mavs might adjust as the series heads to Dallas by helping less on Tatum's drives and staying home on shooters. For now, though, Tatum's role is as a distributor more than a scorer.

Kyrie's struggles hurting Mavs' offense

Kyrie Irving can't find a matchup advantage no matter how hard he hunts. The Celtics' switchable, physical, and lengthy perimeter defenders have been a nightmare for Irving.

He's scored a combined 28 points on 13-for-37 shooting from the field and 0-for-8 from three through two games. In case you weren't sure, that's abysmal production from a guy who averaged 27 points on 37% shooting from three in the Western Conference finals. He went under his points and points, rebounds, and assists props in the opening two games.

Boston has a clear game plan: Let Doncic do Doncic things but don't let the rest of his supporting cast consistently contribute.

The Celtics - unlike previous Mavs opponents - switch Doncic's ball screens when Kristaps Porzingis isn't involved. Boston trusts its perimeter defenders to guard Doncic in single coverage. Of course, there's no stopping the MVP candidate, who was the NBA's best isolation player this season. But Joe Mazzulla's group is comfortable with Doncic scoring 30-plus points as long as the rest of Dallas' roster isn't hurting them.

The Mavs aren't used to this approach. In past series, added defensive attention on Doncic led to open corner threes and lobs. Boston isn't overextending its help, which limits lob opportunities and corner threes, rendering the Mavs' reserves useless for long stretches.

Other than Doncic, Mavs players are shooting 5-for-32 from three (14%) through two games. Doncic and Irving are Dallas' only creators, so if the others aren't knocking down shots, the Mavs' offense will continue to stumble, and this series will be over sooner than expected.

Boston's strong defense and the Mavs' poor shooting have led to Dallas going under its team total in both games (the game total also went under in Games 1 and 2). However, oddsmakers expect better shooting for the Mavs at home. After failing to reach 100 points in the first two contests, Dallas' team total is set at 107.5 for Game 2, and the Mavs are two-point favorites.

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X @soshtry for more betting coverage.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox