Luka takes blame for loss, but 'he's not alone'



BOSTON — Kyrie Irving refused to let Luka Doncic take the blame for the Dallas Mavericks falling into an 2-0 hole in the NBA Finals.

Doncic had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Sunday’s Game 2, but he pointed to two ugly numbers in his scoreline as the primary factors in the Mavericks’ 105-98 loss to the Boston Celtics.

“I think my turnovers and my missed free throws cost us the game,” Doncic said after joining LeBron James, Charles Barkley and Jerry West as the only players in NBA history to record a 30-point triple-double in a Finals loss. “So, I’ve got to do way better in those two categories.

“But at the end of the day, we’ve got to make shots to win the game.”

Irving, in particular, needs to make more shots for the underdog Mavericks to be able to beat a Boston team that had the NBA’s best record and hasn’t lost in a month.

Irving scored 16 points on 7-of-18 shooting in Sunday’s loss, finishing with fewer points than field goal attempts for the second straight game. Irving, who scored 30 or more points in three of the Mavericks’ four wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference finals, is averaging 15 points on 37.1% shooting in the NBA Finals.

“He’s not alone, and we are going to tell him that,” Irving said of Doncic. “He’s spilling into his emotions, feels like he could play better, just like me. I would take the brunt of the responsibility. The first two games weren’t the best for me.”

Irving and Doncic both got off to sizzling starts in Game 2, combining for 21 points in the first quarter as the Mavericks jumped out to a lead. Irving was 4-of-5 from the floor in the quarter but cooled off while being pressured by Boston’s guards.

“A lot of shots were hitting the back rim,” said Irving, who is 0-of-8 from 3-point range in the series. “That could piss you off as a competitor, but it’s all part of the game of basketball. And you have to accept the ups and downs of this. That’s, I would say, the toughest challenge when you’re in a series. You want to play extremely well, especially when you’re playing in a Finals.

“A little disappointed in myself not being able to convert a lot more on my opportunities that I have in the lane. Obviously, I’m going against Jrue Holiday and Jaylen Brown a few times, but I feel like I have the upper edge on certain possessions where I’ve just got to convert.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Irving is 10-of-31 (32.3%) from the floor when shooting off the dribble during the Finals. He converted 42.9% of those shots in Dallas’ first three series of the postseason, including 21-of-58 from 3-point range.

“He had great looks. They just didn’t go down,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said of Irving. “That’s just the game of basketball. Sometimes you make them. Sometimes you don’t. You continue to keep playing.”

Doncic logged 42 minutes despite being listed as questionable until after his pregame warmup session due to a thoracic contusion that he believes he suffered while taking a charge during Thursday’s Game 1 loss. He has been playing through a sprained right knee since the third game of the playoffs and left ankle soreness since early in the second round.

Doncic scored 23 of his 32 points in the first half of Game 2. Five of his eight turnovers occurred in the second half, and the Celtics converted those into nine points in transition.

“He was great,” Kidd said of Doncic. “No matter what he says, that’s just who he is. He’s a leader. It’s not all on him. It’s a team. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. So, he put us in a position. He was really good tonight. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get over the hump. I thought our defense was really, really good. We’ve just got to take care of the ball.”



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