We’re down to four teams in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, and man what a ride it’s been to watch them get here. Now, we get to see who gets to represent their conferences. Now the real scrutiny begins, and here’s our take on who’s facing the most pressure in the Final Four.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics have the most to prove out of anyone left in title contention. It all starts with Jayson Tatum, who is entering his sixth Eastern Conference Finals in the last eight seasons. Tatum is the Celtics’ undisputed top dog, and he’s now got to prove that he can get the Celtics back to the Finals as his current record is 1-4 in the East Finals.

Jaylen Brown has plenty to prove too, as he also wants to erase the bad memory of coming up short of the Celtics becoming the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit after they won three-straight last year against the Heat before losing in Game 7.

More importantly, Boston has the most talented overall squad in the Final Four. They don’t just have Tatum and Brown. They also have Jrue Holiday, a championship-winning defensive ace who can also contribute plenty on offense. There’s Derrick White, who has averaged 20+ PPG in at least one month of the 2023-24 season.

Then there’s the injured Kristaps Porzingis, who is taking his time returning from injury and won’t need to rush back considering that the Celtics are facing the Indiana Pacers. They also have a ridiculous bench with the likes of Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, Al Horford, and Luke Kornet.

Out of all four teams, the Celtics are definitely the ones with the most pressure. This may be the easiest path to the Finals that Tatum and Brown will ever see, and they will not want to squander it.


Indiana Pacers

It may sound unfair of me to say this, but there’s almost no expectation that the Pacers will make it to the NBA Finals, much less win the title this year. They were the most-blessed team in the entire postseason as their series victories will always come with the caveat that both the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks were both banged up and riddled with injuries.

The Pacers still needed seven games to dispatch the Knicks, even though by the end of the series the boys from New York had six key players injured in Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Jalen Brunson, OG Anunoby, Josh Hart and Bojan Bogdanovic. Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the entire first round series for the Bucks, while Damian Lillard missed multiple games. 

Call it what you want, but I don’t think the Pacers belong in the Final Four. They’re here through utter luck. Tyrese Haliburton is a fantastic player, but I think he’s going to get a reality check against the Celtics. The funny part is, even though Haliburton is generally a likeable player and rising star, there are already at least two fandoms who feel this way about him:


Western Conference

Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks’ decision to trade for the likes of Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington, as well as tank from the play-ins last season which eventually led to being able to draft Derrick Lively, has paid huge dividends in the playoffs. All three of them have become extremely important roleplayers who have made major contributions.

Luka Doncic faces some pressure to deliver the Mavericks to the NBA Finals, as he failed to make it past the Golden State Warriors a couple of years ago. Doncic wants his first title so that he can cement himself as a young all-time great and he is, in my opinion, the most talented player left in the playoffs. He also finally has a proper running mate in Kyrie Irving and the ebb and flow between them, with Doncic often taking the initiative in the first half before Irving starts to take over in the second half, has been fun to watch. 

Irving now also has a chance to finally make it back to the NBA Finals. No matter what he says, I think it matters to Irving that he manages to win a ring without LeBron James. This might be his best shot, since the superteam he formed with Kevin Durant and James Harden in Brooklyn didn’t work out.


Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a strange position. Everything has clicked for them, including Anthony Edwards blossoming into a true Top 10 player in the league and galvanizing his team with incredible leadership and a killer instinct that goes way beyond just scoring the ball. Edwards’ teammates have fed off his energy and have contributed when he’s struggled to make shots. That’s because Edwards is also an insanely athletic defender who has no qualms about guarding the best wing player on the other team.

The Timberwolves also have the most suffocating defense out of the Final Four, and have reinvigorated versions of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. Towns has graciously accepted his position as the second-best player on the team, while Gobert is showing everyone that it may have been Donovan Mitchell’s fault that the Utah Jazz’s defense didn’t hold in the playoffs when Gobert was still in Salt Lake City.

Add that to savvy veterans like Mike Conley, incredible defenders like Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid, plus good pieces like Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kyle Anderson, the Timberwolves are nothing short of terrifying.

Because they defeated the defending champions, the onus will be on Minnesota to show that it wasn’t a fluke. However, you can’t really say that coming back from a 20-point second half deficit was luck. Edwards and the rest of his teammates clamped down on the Nuggets and made life so difficult that you’ve got to believe they can do it to the Mavericks too.