2024 NBA Finals: The Mavericks can’t withstand another dreadful performance, and Kyrie Irving holds the key to Game 2.

Irving needs to score significantly more than the 12 points he scored in the first game.

2024 NBA Finals: The Mavericks can't withstand another dreadful performance, and Kyrie Irving holds the key to Game 2.
2024 NBA Finals: The Mavericks can’t withstand another dreadful performance, and Kyrie Irving holds the key to Game 2.

In the Dallas Mavericks’ second-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kyrie Irving averaged a meager 15 points per game and was restricted to single digits twice.

The Celtics are not the Thunder, but Dallas still prevailed in six games. Even if Irving scores 12 points like he did in Game 1, Dallas will not be able to win this series because they are simply too strong offensively, especially now that Kristaps Porzingis is back.

It is that easy, honestly.

However, that does not mean it will be easy for Irving to have a big scoring night in Game 2. Although it’s a common misconception that players can arbitrarily take over a game, defenders can have some influence. Jalen Williams covered Irving for the Thunder, who also had a reliable group of perimeter defenders on hand to help with switches. Although he exhibited some passivity, it wasn’t as though he was routinely turning down opportunities to score.

2024 NBA Finals: The Mavericks can't withstand another dreadful performance, and Kyrie Irving holds the key to Game 2.
2024 NBA Finals: The Mavericks can’t withstand another dreadful performance, and Kyrie Irving holds the key to Game 2.

The Celtics chose to start Irving against Jrue Holiday, who remains the world’s finest on-ball defender regardless of what people think about Mikal Bridges, Herb Jones, Jaden McDaniels, Jalen Suggs, or anyone else. Boston also has an impressive roster of pre-made switchers at their disposal.

Irving’s one-on-one attempts in the first game were blocked by everyone, including Sam Hauser and Al Horford. He dribbled against Derrick White, using his foot.

He intentionally passed the ball out of bounds. He passed up easy 3-pointers and aseveral pull-up jumpers, most of which are automated. Holiday forced him to airball one far, but luckily Dereck Lively would accidentally lob it in, making it the only one the Mavericks converted. Irving had only four points after the second quarter’s eleventh minute.

Choosing and being able to cover Luka Doncic with a single defender was one of the biggest problems for Boston, if not the biggest one. Because of this, Boston’s secondary defenders, including Irving, were able to stay at home and generate opportunities for themselves against changing opponents that had committed to double-teaming Doncic.

Doncic struggled to overcome Boston’s point-of-attack defense despite finishing with 30 points on 26 attempts, demonstrating his own inefficiency.

Irving’s situation might improve if he can heat up early in Game 2 to the point that Boston feels compelled to make adjustments. If that happens, the Celtics might choose to send a second defender.

However, that would imply that Irving, like the other non-Luka Mavs, needs an uneasy defense in order to score, which he does not. Irving’s unmatched creative abilities are well known. How should Holiday cover Irving? was a question posed to him prior to the Finals. He said, “Pray.” If that’s the case, then in Game 1, the good lord had to have been a Celtics fan. However, Irving is talented enough to overcome even the most devoted supporters in Game 2—even against the best defense the Celtics can field.

It is imperative that he completes it.

Because Dallas probably couldn’t, in contrast to the Celtics, who can probably not only survive but also prosper even when one of its stars is limited to 16 points on 16 shots, as Jayson Tatum did in Game 1.

If Boston is to stick to its plan of not leaving shooters and boxing out Gafford and Lively as lob threats, Doncic and Irving will likely need to combine for 60 points or more. Without those two Mavs players creating the leverage, those peripheral players won’t score.

In Game 1, the Celtics openly challenged the stars of Dallas to defeat them.

All night long, they provided them with a single cover. The Mavs failed to succeed. Doncic was contained to about the utmost degree conceivable given his talent and yet managed to score 30 points despite recording just one assist as Boston took away all of his passing options and forced him to score one-on-one. For the last three quarters, Irving was essentially absent.

In Game 2, there must be a distinct plot. Irving needs to play with the urgency of a player who is playing in a game that Dallas needs to win because he is one of the two players that can generate offense in any situation. It also can’t be about making more off-dribble threes in an attempt to catch up to Boston. Irving must defeat the opponent in front of him. Regularly.

For his own baskets, he must get inside the paint, and once Boston does collapse, in order to allow the gunmen in Dallas time to start their own mission.

For Dallas to be competitive with Boston, it need more than just Irving and Doncic. Those two had to be the first. They need to win heavily in order to receive assistance later on.

Doncic can essentially be counted on for thirty, but it will need to be more effective than it was in Game 1. But Irving is the real deal. The Mavericks will find themselves down 0–2 if he lays another egg in Game 2, and that is when they will need to start praying.

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