NBA Finals: Kyrie Irving Faces ‘Self-Doubt’ as Mavericks Fight to Stay Alive Against Celtics

Dallas Mavericks Must Win in Boston to Keep Series Alive

The pressure is on as the Dallas Mavericks head to Boston for Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night. Down 3-1 in the series, the Mavericks must secure a win to keep their championship hopes alive. For Dallas point guard Kyrie Irving, this matchup is particularly significant, as it brings him back to the city where his basketball journey took a contentious turn.

Kyrie Irving on Jason Kidd defending Luka Doncic pregame.

Kyrie Irving’s Struggles Against Former Team

Kyrie Irving, who spent two seasons with the Boston Celtics before signing with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, has faced intense scrutiny and criticism from Boston fans. The hostility was evident during Games 1 and 2 of the finals, where chants targeting Irving echoed through TD Garden, contributing to his struggles on the court. The Mavericks lost both games, and Irving’s performance was notably underwhelming.

Reflecting on His Time in Boston

As the Celtics stand on the brink of their 18th title in franchise history, Irving has found a sense of peace with his complicated legacy in Boston. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, he reflected on his time with the team and the city’s passionate fanbase.

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“Now being older with hindsight looking back, I definitely would have taken time to know the people in the community and talked to some of the champions that have come before me,” Irving said. “They have championship pedigree here … 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. I’m perfectly fine with that, you know what I mean. I did it to myself.”

Facing Self-Doubt

Irving, who won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, admitted that overcoming personal flaws and self-doubt is crucial for his performance in Boston.

“I mean, let’s just call it what it is,” Irving said. “When the fans are cheering, ‘Kyrie sucks,’ they feel like they have a psychological edge, and that’s fair. 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.

“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.”

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Celtics’ Stumble in Game 4

Despite their commanding series lead, the Celtics showed vulnerability in Game 4, suffering a 122-84 blowout loss to the Mavericks. Jayson Tatum, who led the Celtics with 15 points, emphasized the need for the team to rediscover their winning formula that has driven their successful season.

“I think we maybe put too much pressure on ourselves at that moment to be perfect or think it was going to go how we wanted it to go,” Tatum said. “[Coach Joe Mazzulla] did a great job of reminding us that it’s OK to smile during wars. It’s OK to have fun during high-pressure moments. That’s what makes our team unique and special.”

Mavericks’ Resilience

The Mavericks’ resilience was on full display in Game 4, with Luka Dončić scoring 29 points and Irving adding 21 to keep their season alive. Dallas is aiming to make history as the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Teams in this position are currently 0-156.

“I think the most important thing is to show that we believe,” Dončić said. “I think we showed in Game 4. If not, if we wouldn’t believe, we probably wouldn’t have won that game. So I think obviously the talk is easy to talk about it, but then showing it is another thing.”

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Looking Ahead to Game 5

As Game 5 approaches, the stakes couldn’t be higher for both teams. For the Mavericks, it’s a fight to extend the series and keep their championship dreams alive. For the Celtics, it’s a chance to clinch their 18th title in front of their home crowd. Irving’s return to TD Garden adds an extra layer of drama, as he confronts both external hostility and his own self-doubt in one of the most challenging environments in sports.

Conclusion

The narrative of Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston is rich with tension and personal growth. As the Mavericks strive to make an unprecedented comeback, Irving’s ability to overcome his struggles and lead his team will be under the microscope. The Celtics, on the other hand, will be looking to capitalize on their home-court advantage and close out the series. Monday night promises to be a thrilling chapter in this year’s NBA Finals.


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