NBA Finals: Luka Doncic takes blame for Game 2 loss, but Kyrie Irving is the one letting Dallas down

The Dallas Mavericks are down 0-2 in the NBA Finals after the Boston Celtics recorded a 105-98 victory in Game 2 on Sunday night, and Luka Doncic, of all people, is the one taking the blame for the Dallas defeat. 

“I think my turnovers and my missed free throws cost us the game,” Doncic said. “I’ve got to do way better in those two categories.”

Doncic is right about his eight turnovers and four missed free throws. To card numbers like that in a game of this magnitude, with the minuscule margin for error with which the Mavericks are working with against an increasingly vastly superior Celtics team, is asking for trouble. He actually kind of looks like he has a mild case of the yips at the free-throw line. One of his misses hardly drew front iron. 

He’s also exhausted. That’s a big part of this. The Celtics are coming at him in waves. He got picked from behind twice in semi-transition. Every time he takes a breath, someone is suffocating him. It doesn’t help that he’s playing through a chest contusion, either. That’s when the mistakes and missed free throws start to pile up. That’s also why it’s absolutely ridiculous for Doncic to be taking the blame for this loss. 

I get the gesture of the best player holding himself accountable, which is commendable, but Doncic taking the blame for a loss in which he posted 32 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and four steals while his co-star Kyrie Irving was more or less shut down for the second straight game is ridiculous. Doncic had four 3s; the rest of the Mavericks combined went 2-of-17. 

Boston’s on-ball defense is incredible. Doncic is facing Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday and Derrick White and Jayson Tatum. They’re like four All-Pro defensive ends rotating in and out, splitting their energy. Meanwhile, Doncic is that dude in the center of the Oklahoma drill trying to swivel around to fight off all of them. He made 11-of-15 shots through the first three quarters and one of 6 in the fourth. He’s absolutely gassed. 

Irving simply has to do more. He’s facing his own kind of defensive behemoth in Holiday, but he’s just not being aggressive enough to meaningfully ease Doncic’s burden. Irving is supposed to be able to beat any defender off the dribble. He’s revered as effectively indefensible. Tell that to Brown. 

When was the last time you saw Irving jitterbug like that and make absolutely no forward progress? It has happened more in this series than any I can remember. Irving had eight points in the first quarter and eight the rest of the game: two in the second, two in the third, and four in the fourth when the game was pretty much over but he finally decided to turn up his volume. 

He is missing pull-up shots that he usually makes and posing absolutely zero threat as a 3-point shooter. He’s getting to the rim once in a while and creating a few shots for teammates here and there, but by and large, he’s operating as way too casual a bystander as Doncic is trying to break through a hurricane. 

Boston deserves credit for shutting Irving down. The Celtics are not helping off really anyone because they have the horses to play Doncic straight up, which is limiting Irving’s opportunities against shifting defenses, but even in matchups Irving should be able to dominate, he is getting walled off by the likes of Payton Pritchard and settling for corner 3s against Sam Hauser, as he did in Game 1. 

The Mavericks cannot lean on their support staff to initiate offense. They aren’t the Celtics with their array of creative options. Shots have to be generated for P.J. Washington, Derrick Jones Jr. and Daniel Gafford by way of Doncic and Irving dominating their individual matchups to the point that Boston is forced to leave other guys open. 

Doncic has tried to do his part with 62 points and eight 3-pointers through the first two games. Irving, on the other hand, contributing 28 total points on 35% shooting while missing all eight of his 3s in this series is not tenable. And frankly, it doesn’t really matter why Irving has been so ineffective. You can credit Boston’s defense or say Irving has just been bad. I’d say it’s both, as usual. But the bottom line is the Mavericks cannot compete with the collective firepower of the Celtics if Irving isn’t pulling his weight. 

Doncic can take the blame because it’s the right thing to say, but it’s not his to own. Without him, the Mavs would have lost these first two games by about 70 points. And anyone who has watched this series knows that. 



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