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NBA Finals: Irving aims to focus as Dallas fights to survive in Boston

By: Agence France Presse June 17,2024 - 10:11 AM

NBA Finals: Irving aims to focus as Mavericks fights to survive in Boston in Game 5. In photo is Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks driving to the basket against Jrue Holiday #4 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game Four of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 14, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. | Getty Images via AFP

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks drives to the basket against Jrue Holiday #4 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game Four of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 14, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. | Getty Images via AFP

Resigned to the villain’s role in Boston, Dallas star Kyrie Irving is less concerned with silencing hostile Celtics fans than with quieting self doubt and leading the Mavs in a must-win NBA Finals Game 5.

“Let’s just call it what it is,” Irving said Sunday as the Mavs prepared to try once again to fend off elimination in the championship series, in which they trail the Celtics 3-1.

“When the fans are cheering ‘Kyrie sucks’ they feel like they have a psychological edge, and that’s fair,'” said Irving, who was hounded by Celtics fans still rankled by his departure in 2019 after two seasons with the team.


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Amid the jeers he delivered two sub-par performances in games one and two, the Mavs eventually falling 0-3 down before a blowout victory in game four to extend the series.

“Of course, if I’m not making shots or turning the ball over, that makes it even more of a pressing issue that they can stay on me for,” Irving said.

“I think in order to silence even the self-doubt, let alone the crowd doubt, but the self-doubt when you make or miss shots, that’s just as important as making sure I’m leading the team the right way and being human through this experience, too, and telling them how I feel.”

Sunday’s victory ended Irving’s own 13-game losing streak against the Celtics.

He’s cognizant of his complicated personal history with the team, which he said stretches back further than his petulant demonstrations when his Brooklyn Nets were swept by the  Celtics in the first round in 2022.

He said Sunday it started when he arrived in Boston in 2017, when he failed to engage with the history of the storied franchise or, as he put it “the cult that they have here.


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“That’s what they expect you to do as a player,” Irving said. “They expect you to seamlessly buy into the Celtics’ pride, buy into everything Celtics. And if you don’t, then you’ll be outed.

“I’m one of the people that’s on the outs,” he added with a laugh. “I did it to myself.”

Now Irving is more concerned with the task facing the Mavericks as they try to become the first NBA team to erase an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.

“Most importantly, (it’s) not making this about me or getting into the energy with anyone else other than my teammates,” Irving said, adding that the Mavs must think “about the goal that we have in front of us as best we can, and try not to get tired of everyone talking about the history that has not been made.”

Irving, who won a title alongside LeBron James in Cleveland in 2016, said he had encouraged his teammates — many in the Finals for the first time — to embrace and enjoy the moment.

“We got a chance to accomplish one of our goals, which is to make it back to Boston,” Irving said. “We have another goal in front of us, and that’s to make it back to Dallas.”

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TAGS: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, NBA Finals

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