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2024 NBA Finals: If Kyrie Irving doesn’t show up, the Mavericks are cooked

There’s not much more the Dallas Mavericks can do if Kyrie Irving won’t show up.

The Mavericks fell into an 0-2 hole against the Boston Celtics in the 2024 NBA Finals despite all five Dallas starters scoring in double figures, including a 32-point triple double on better than 50 percent shooting from superstar guard Luka Doncic.

They lost Game 2 at the TD Garden on Sunday just like they lost Game 1 in Boston, waiting idly for Irving to hit a shooting stride, only for time to expire before he ever found a scoring rhythm to start the series.

Irving is now 13-of-37 from the field and 0-of-8 from downtown with six fouls and five turnovers in these Finals. He finished with just 16 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field as the Mavericks made multiple efforts to rally back from down 14, only to fall in a 105-98 loss on the road.

What’s worse than the inefficient shooting numbers is the overall tenor of a superstar scoring guard bound for the Hall of Fame.

Irving has looked like a shell of himself with the stakes at their highest.

These are the moments the Mavericks had in mind when they signed him to a three-year, $120 million contract extension to create what’s become the best scoring back court in all of basketball.

Only one half of the back court is putting the ball in the basket.

It’s an unbecoming performance for a player heralded as the most skilled of all time, one might even call it a choke job for a player who built a legacy on torching the Golden State Warriors to help lead the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers to the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.

Irving has had a number of inefficient playoff games during the Mavericks’ championship run: After torching the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, he averaged just 15.7 points per game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Round 2, scoring just nine points each in Games 2 and 4 and tallying 12 points in Game 5.

He averaged another 27 points against a Minnesota Timberwolves team without an answer for him in the Western Conference Finals, but now, he’s out of rhythm against a Celtics with four players capable of guarding him in stretches.

The Mavericks are 3-4 during this playoff run in games Irving shoots poorly from the field.

The saving grace for both Irving and the Mavs is the series shifting back to Dallas, where Irving will play in front of a crowd attempting to lift him up rather than rip him down.

Those Celtics fans, after all, are never quick to forget when a player betrays them, like Irving did when he said he planned to sign an extension in Boston, only to leave for the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant shortly after.

He then said he wanted to build a legacy with Durant in Brooklyn, only to tear down a contender and force a trade to the Mavericks.

Now, here we have it: Irving is on the Mavericks playing alongside one of the most talented players in the history of the sport, appearing in his first NBA Finals since leaving LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

And he’s coming up empty.

The Celtics expect that to change in Dallas.

They know their fan base has given them an edge historically against Irving.

The edge predates his time in Dallas. Irving has shot worse than 45 percent from the field in six of his last nine games at the TD Garden. He has more field goal attempts than points scored in five of those six games, including each of the first two of this NBA Finals series and Dallas’ 28-point loss to the Celtics on March 1.

And while he’ll get away from the raucous Boston crowd for Games 3 and 4 back at the American Airlines Center, Irving will find it more difficult to shed the combined defensive pressure from Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Jaylen Brown.

If he can’t, the Mavericks are going home in five, if not four games, because as great as Doncic is, and as great as he’s shown he can be against the Celtics, there’s not much more he or his teammates can do if they are playing four-on-five if Irving doesn’t show up to the party.


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