Pacers odds on Celtics opener, experts’ pick: Boston heavily favored in conference final


The 2024 Eastern Conference Finals is a story of David versus Goliath or, perhaps less dramatically but more fairly, newbies versus 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.

The Celtics have all the assets: experience, five days of rest, a stronger regular season, more size and, on paper, more talent. But the Pacers arrive having already beaten all odds as a No. 6 seed clinching a berth in the conference finals. Now it’s time for them 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 Tuesday night in Boston.

All odds of PariMGM. Find the best deals on StubHub for tickets.

No. 6 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 1 Boston Celtics

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

Series odds: Celtics -900, Pacers +600

Indiana is riding a historic Game 7 victory right into the jaws of the Boston beast. The Pacers snatched a victory from the Knicks in their seventh game on Sunday, with a 67.1% success rate from the field, which is the best of any game seven game. And they’ll need all their offensive potential against the Celtics, who finished first in regular-season offensive rating, just ahead of the Pacers.

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

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

However, during these playoffs, the Pacers role players have really figured it out. Aaron Nesmith had 19 points, four rebounds and an assist in Game 7 against the Knicks. Andrew Nembhard is averaging 12 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the playoffs. In the second round, the Pacers outscored the Knicks by 31 points with TJ McConnell in the lineup and lost every other minute by three. Isaiah Jackson is shooting 65.4 percent in the 12.6 minutes he plays per game.

The real question for this series is whether Indiana can maintain this pace against a largely healthy Boston team. Even if Kristaps Porziņģis doesn’t return to the lineup right away, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have led the Celtics to fairly easy playoff wins thus far without him.

Of course, the Celtics benefited from Jimmy Butler missing the entire first round and Donovan Mitchell missing the final three games of the second round. Indiana, meanwhile, beat Milwaukee without Giannis Antetokounmpo for the entire series and Damian Lillard missing two games. Then the Knicks suffered numerous injuries throughout this series.

Can the Pacers control the pace and leverage their speed to their advantage? Their defense has been problematic throughout the playoffs, ranking 12th out 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 came to Pacers big star Tyrese Haliburton, the Knicks didn’t have the size or depth of the Celtics, 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 on Haliburton.

As Athleticism David Aldridge said it, the Pacers play with house money and are used to going unnoticed. This game should be a lot tougher for them, but they should at least be able to hang with Boston and get a win or two.

Still, I’m calling the Celtics in five hours.

Expert Picks for Pacers at Celtics

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(Jayson Tatum Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)


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