Tim McMahonESPN Writer3 minute read
DALLAS — Once again, the Mavericks failed to finish with their pair of All-Stars on the floor together.
On that occasion, Kyrie Irving missed a disputed 3-point pullback on final possession in a 124-122 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. It was the fourth time in five games that Irving had played alongside Luka Doncic and the Mavs lost, with all losses by a margin of one possession – a far cry from the boost Dallas was hoping for when he wrapped up the blockbuster deal with Brooklyn Nets to acquire Irving.
“I just appreciate the coaching staff and my teammates who trusted me with that shot and the comfort they gave me afterwards,” Irving said after the loss, which brought down Dallas. in seventh place in the Western Conference standings. “I really want to win here, I really put a lot of pressure on myself sometimes. I think I have to cut back a bit, just because the second half of the season I just feel like we have to be excellent every single possession , and usually those learning curves or learning moments happen in the pre-season, and it’s happening now.
“So it definitely highlights what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. Easy to criticize, but for us I just have to focus on being the best I can be and showing up for not just Luka , but for my teammates.”
The loss put a damper on Doncic’s 24th birthday, but he didn’t contest the game late in the game, when he watched from the corner as Irving isolated himself against Pacers guard TJ McConnell.
“It was a good shot,” said Doncic, who had 39 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the loss. “It’s Kyrie. He can do a lot of those shots, and we trust him.”
Irving averaged 24.7 points and 6.9 assists in seven games for the Mavs, including a pair of wins that Doncic missed while recovering from a bruised heel immediately after the trade. But Irving hasn’t shot well in Dallas’ last two games, going a combined 15 of 40 from the floor in home losses to the Los Angeles Lakers (when the Mavs blew a 27-point lead) and the Pacers.
Irving acknowledged he felt the pressure to perform after being involved in a high-profile trade and joining the Mavs as they battled for playoff seeding in the second half of the season.
“The last two games I just didn’t play with the fluidity of my game and just complemented the others and just did the little things to get us the win,” said Irving, who had 16 points on 7 of 18 shots and nine assists Tuesday night. “I mean, it’s natural. It comes with it. And also, as a human being, I naturally want to fit in with everyone and not step on anyone’s toes.
“But the magnitude of the moments sometimes justifies special people going above and doing extra things. I’m in this place now, but I think I just need to scale back and let the game come to me and sink in. , because when we’re playing this tight, I can feel the intensity around me. I think I just have to settle in and stay balanced.”
Irving is used to playing alongside another superstar, something Doncic is experiencing for the first time in the NBA. Irving won a title as a sidekick to LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers and joined the Nets as free agency with Kevin Durant.
The Mavs were hoping pairing Irving with Doncic would give them a shot at a championship, but Irving doesn’t think he’s kept up his end of the bargain yet by playing with the NBA’s leading scorer.
“That’s the big deal, baby,” Irving said. “That’s the big deal. As much pressure as I put on myself, I have goals I’d like to accomplish, but all of those are pushed aside because I know I have 15 other guys on this team. who are counting on me to do things that they have seen me do or expect me to do as one of the best players in the league. So sitting next to Luka, I have to just show up at the party.
“I’ve been in situations in this league. Some have been failures, some have been successes, but over the past few years I’ve made it my goal to just be stronger mentally, especially against to the rigors of this mental. , physically, emotionally. It will come. It will come.