NBA: Kyrie Irving moving on with Luka Doncic, Mavericks

NBA: Kyrie Irving moving on with Luka Doncic, Mavericks

/ 02:42 PM May 05, 2024

Kyrie Irving Dallas Mavericks NBA Playoffs

Dallas Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving leaves the court after beating the Los Angeles Clippers 114-101 in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

DALLAS — Kyrie Irving wowed the crowd with a crossover move that helped create just enough space for him to let fly with a leaning 3-pointer.

Luka Doncic’s co-star with the Dallas Mavericks was bumped and fell with the shot in the air, and his teammates were right there to mob him when the shot went in as the whistle blew.

The four-point play was a punctuating moment in a 114-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night that sent the Mavericks into the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 4-2 series victory.

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Dallas beat LA for the first time in three first-round tries over the past five NBA seasons — and Irving improved to 13-0 in closeout games for his career.

“When I think about 13-0 in closeout games in general, I just know you’ve just got to get there to that point to be able to be ready to have the other team submit,” said Irving, who scored 28 of his 30 points in the second half. “It’s one of the hardest things to do as a competitor is to have your opponent concede or submit.”

READ: NBA: Doncic, Irving carry Mavericks past Clippers and into 2nd round

The fifth-seeded Mavericks open the Western Conference semifinals at the top seed, Oklahoma City, on Tuesday night.

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“Never in doubt with Kai,” Doncic said. “It’s amazing to see the kind of plays he makes.”

The Mavericks added Irving at the trade deadline last year, hoping to create an NBA All-Star pairing that would at least match the run to the West finals from 2022.

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Instead, injuries and inconsistencies kept the chemistry from developing, and Dallas missed the playoffs, unceremoniously tanking late in the regular season to try to preserve a draft pick.

Luka Doncic Kyrie Irving Dallas Mavericks NBA playoffs

Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, left, congratulates teammate Kyrie Irving as Irving speaks to the media after beating the Los Angeles Clippers 114-101 in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, May 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Irving’s health was a big part of a surge into the top six in the West over the final two months of this season when it appeared the play-in tournament might have to be the route.

Now the Mavericks have a series victory in the first postseason together for two players with a combined 13 All-Star appearances.

“I’m just in awe each and every night,” said P.J. Washington, a trade deadline addition this year and a key provider of 3-point shooting and defense. “They’re special players and they make special plays each and every night.”

READ: NBA: Kyrie Irving, Luka Doncic working on better plot after last year’s flop

Irving was 10 of 13 from the field in the second half, starting with a layup that broke a 52-52 halftime tie. After a 3-pointer from Doncic, Irving added a 3 for an 8-0 run. Dallas didn’t trail again.

Doncic has been dealing with a sore knee that is affecting his shooting — the NBA scoring champion shot 24% from 3-point range for the series against the Clippers.

Irving hasn’t been scoring early — just 10 points combined in the first quarters of the six games against LA. But he’s been scoring late.

The 28 points in the second half of the clincher matched Irving’s playoff career high for a half. And in a Game 4 loss, Irving scored all 40 of his points after the Clippers had taken a 31-point lead as Dallas rallied to take the lead before losing by five.

“Just his calmness, his energy was always positive in the locker room,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “And that’s just the leadership and trust that the guys have on the floor with him.”

Doncic finally beat the Clippers after losing each of the first two playoff series of his career to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and company in 2020 and 2021.

Now the Slovenian superstar takes aim at an NBA postseason run that at least matches 2022, when Dallas stunned Phoenix in Game 7 on the road in the West semis before losing to eventual champion Golden State in five games in the West finals.

After winning the franchise’s only NBA championship in 2011, Dallas didn’t have another playoff series victory until beating Utah in the first round two years ago. Now the Mavericks have won three of their past four series.

Doncic will take the three days off that Dallas gets for closing out the series against the Clippers. He just doesn’t expect the rest to make a huge difference with his knee.

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“I don’t think it’s going to be better before I get some rest,” Doncic said. “It’s a lot of minutes.”

The Mavs are hoping for plenty more minutes.

TAGS: Dallas Mavericks, Kyrie Irving

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