Back home, Celtics try again to close out Kyrie Irving, Mavericks

Sun Jun 16 6:18pm ET
Field Level Media

BOSTON -- If any player knows how badly the Boston Celtics want to close out the Mavericks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night, it's Dallas guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving spent two seasons with Boston (2017-19), but he's been a villain in the eyes of Celtics fans since leaving to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019. Chants ragging on Irving frequently echoed throughout TD Garden in Games 1 and 2 -- a pair of Mavericks losses -- before Boston hit the road and came out of Dallas with a 3-1 lead in the series.

And with the Celtics now knocking on the door of the 18th title in franchise history, Irving has seemingly found peace with his place in Boston history as he prepares to return to a hostile environment.

"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 told reporters on Sunday. "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."

But the Celtics greats of years past are the last thing on Boston coach Joe Mazzulla's mind.

Mazzulla was asked how special it would be to join coaches such as Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and K.C. Jones as those to lead a Celtics team to a championship. Without hesitation, he immediately shifted the focus to Game 5.

"That will never happen if you don't run back on defense, rebound, execute and get to your spacing," Mazzulla said. "That's the most important thing."

Boston lacked those fundamentals on Friday, failing to put the Mavericks away while ending up on the wrong end of a 122-84 blowout in Game 4.

Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 15 points for the Celtics, and he's hoping that Boston rediscovers the brand of basketball that has led it to 79 wins in 100 games between the regular season and playoffs here in 2023-24.

"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 of why the Celtics came up short on Friday. "Joe did a great job (Sunday) 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."

Luka Doncic went for 29 points and Irving supplied 21 on Friday to keep Dallas' season alive. The Mavericks are trying to become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

Teams are 0-156 when losing the first three games of a series.

"I think the most important thing is to show that we believe," Doncic 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."

The stars could be aligning for Boston, though, as Monday marks the 16-year anniversary of the Celtics' 2008 title. Boston hasn't gone all the way since.

--Nick Galle, Field Level Media


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Mon Jun 17 8:30pm ET