Pacers at Celtics Game 1 odds, expert picks: Boston heavily favored in conference finals (2024)

The 2024 Eastern Conference finals is a tale of David vs. Goliath, or, perhaps less dramatically but more aptly, the newbies vs. the veterans. The Boston Celtics clinched their sixth Eastern Conference finals berth since 2017; meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers haven’t made the playoffs since 2020 and haven’t seen the conference finals since 2014.

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The Celtics have all the advantages: Experience, five days of rest, a stronger regular season, more size and, on paper, more talent. But the Pacers are coming in having already beaten the odds as a No. 6 seed clinching a conference finals berth. Now is their time to show if they can compete at this level against a playoff giant.

Here’s a look at the storylines, odds and staff picks for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night in Boston.

All odds fromBetMGM.Find the best deals on StubHub for tickets.

No. 6 Indiana Pacers at No. 1 Boston Celtics

How to watch:8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Series odds:Celtics -900, Pacers +600

Indiana is riding the high of an historic Game 7 win straight into the jaws of the Boston beast. The Pacers snatched a victory from the Knicks in their Game 7 Sunday, shooting 67.1 percent from the field, which is the best for any Game 7 ever. And they’ll need every bit of their offensive juice against the Celtics, who finished first in regular-season offensive rating — just ahead of the Pacers.

That’s right, these were the two best offenses in the league this year. (Check out that lofty total for Game 1.) But Indiana went 2-3 against Boston in the regular season and, as The Athletic’s Zach Harper pointed out in our NBA newsletter, their “offensive rating against the Celtics (114.1) was roughly six points per 100 possessions below their regular-season mark.”

To be fair, all but one of those games were without Pascal Siakam, who brings a size and athleticism the Pacers will need against the Celtics.

In this postseason, though, the Pacers’ role-players have really been figuring it out. Aaron Nesmith got 19 points, four rebounds, and one assist in Game 7 against the Knicks. Andrew Nembhard is averaging 12 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the postseason. In the second round, the Pacers outscored the Knicks by 31 points with T.J. McConnell in the lineup and lost all other minutes by three. Isaiah Jackson is shooting 65.4 percent in the average 12.6 minutes he’s played per game.

The real question for this series is whether Indiana can keep that up when matched against a mostly healthy Boston team. Even if Kristaps Porziņģis doesn’t get back in the lineup right away, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have led the Celtics to fairly easy series wins so far without him.

Of course, the Celtics have benefited from Jimmy Butler missing the entire first round and Donovan Mitchell missing the last three games in the second round. Indiana, meanwhile, beat Milwaukee without Giannis Antetokounmpo for the entire series and Damian Lillard missed two games. Then the Knicks had a slew of injuries throughout that series.

Can the Pacers control the pace and leverage their speed to their advantage? Their defense has been problematic through the postseason, ranking 12th of 16 teams in the playoffs. They didn’t do much better against the Knicks until the Knicks ran out of healthy players.

When it comes to the Pacers’ big star, Tyrese Haliburton, the Knicks didn’t have the size or depth the Celtics do, and they didn’t have enough wing defenders to deal with Haliburton. The Jays and the rest of the Celtics team should be able to keep the pressure up on Haliburton.

As The Athletic’s David Aldridge put it, the Pacers are playing with house money and used to flying under the radar. This matchup should be much harder for them, but they should be able to at least hang with Boston and get a win or two.

Still, I’m calling Celtics in five.

Expert picks for Pacers at Celtics

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(Photo of Jayson Tatum: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

Pacers at Celtics Game 1 odds, expert picks: Boston heavily favored in conference finals (1)Pacers at Celtics Game 1 odds, expert picks: Boston heavily favored in conference finals (2)

Hannah Vanbiber is a staff editor for sports betting at The Athletic. Hannah previously wrote for Gaming Today, New York Sports Day, Rocky Top Insider, MLIVE, and other sports betting outlets as a freelance writer. She started her journalism career in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a reporter and editor covering local sports. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahVanbiber

Pacers at Celtics Game 1 odds, expert picks: Boston heavily favored in conference finals (2024)
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