Kyrie Irving ends his personal Celtics skid, so now the Mavs will try to win in Boston in NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) scores against the Boston Celtics during the first half in Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


AP Sports Writer

DALLAS Kyrie Irving’s personal 13-game losing streak against the Celtics is over.

Now it’s back to the parquet floor in Boston to face his former team again, the Dallas Mavericks still alive in the NBA Finals after avoiding a sweep with a 122-84 blowout in Game 4 on Friday night.

The first two road games in this series weren’t Irving’s best, the two in Dallas quite a bit better despite a Game 3 loss that left the Mavs with a deficit no NBA team has overcome to win a playoff series.

Combine that with much more of an impact from the role players around Irving and co-star Luka Doncic, and maybe the constant booing of Irving from the jilted fans in Boston won’t ring quite as loudly in Game 5 on Monday night.

Plenty of green-clad Celtics fans were planning a celebration in Texas, but the loud cheers early when the game was close didn’t last long.

“You saw all those Celtics fans in there tonight. They travel in packs,” said Irving, who spent two seasons in Boston. “When we go to Boston, there’s going to be a bunch of them yelling a whole bunch of crazy stuff still, but I think we’ve been able to grow and face kind of this adversity head on.

“We’re figuring out each other in a crazy way during the highest stage of basketball,” Irving said. “So it’s a beautiful thing, but it also can be chaotic if you don’t know how to stay poised through it.”

If the Mavericks are to become just the 12th of 157 teams to force a Game 6 after falling behind 3-0 — and get the title series back to Dallas — the supporting cast for Irving and Doncic will have to keep it up.

Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) scores against the Boston Celtics during Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Dallas. (Stacy Revere/Pool Photo via AP)

Dereck Lively II connected on a 3-pointer for the first time in his career — exactly seven months after the the second of the two regular-season attempts from beyond the arc by the 7-foot-1 rookie center.

At one point in the second half, Lively had 12 rebounds, his final total, to 16 for Boston. No wonder Dallas outscored the Celtics 60-26 in the paint, where Lively scored the other eight of his 11 points.

Dante Exum hit two 3s and had another taken away when replay revealed he had stepped out of bounds. The buckets from deep were coming from so many Dallas players — 14 of 23, although those numbers were skewed a bit by the blowout — it didn’t matter that Doncic and Irving combined to go 1 of 14.

“It’s five people on the floor,” Doncic said. “So that’s huge for us. Everybody played with a lot of energy. That’s how we got to do it. We got to think the same way in Game 5 in Boston.”

Doncic scored 25 of his 29 points in the first half, while Irving had 10 of his 21 in the third quarter to help push a 26-point halftime lead to 38 before all starters were out of the game for good late in the third.

Lively’s games in the finals have somewhat mirrored those of Irving, his fellow Duke alum. The 20-year-old was mostly quiet in Boston. The two games in Dallas put him in the company of Magic Johnson as the only rookies with consecutive double-doubles in the NBA Finals.

He replaced starter Daniel Gafford earlier than in any of the previous finals games, and coach Jason Kidd said Lively just happened to be in the right spot — the right corner — when he hit the 3 to put Dallas ahead for good about three minutes later.

It’s unlikely Lively will start at this point — something he did early in his rookie season — but the crowd probably will notice when he heads to the scorer’s table for the first time back in Boston.

“If they leave me open in the corner, I’m going to get them up, for sure,” Lively said. “It’s just having that trust. Luka is going to give me the ball. As soon as I shot it, he kind of jumped for joy when it went in.”

Irving is still trying to find some joy in Boston, and he gets another chance this season.