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Kyrie Irving “inspired” sets tone for Mavs in West Final

Kyrie Irving discusses his big first half, his matchup with Anthony Edwards, and the importance of winning Game 1.

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Kyrie Irving had the tightest first two rounds of the playoffs, averaging 8.4 pts more in the second half (15.1) than in the first (6.0).

But everything has changed in Game 1 of the West Finals, propelling the Mavs to a 1-0 lead over the Wolves heading into tonight’s Game 2 (8:30 a.m. ET, TNT).

  • After a quick start from Irving helped Dallas take a 1-0 lead, they will look to replicate that opening tonight in Game 2.

Change: Facing the Timberwolves’ top-ranked defense and a Minnesota team surging after knocking out the defending champions, Irving jumped early and often on offense.

  • 1st trimester: After making a total of four shots on 13 attempts in six combined games in the West Semifinals, Irving opened Game 1 with six field goals on nine attempts for 13 points in the 1st quarter.
  • 1st half: Irving scored 24 of his 30 points before halftime, shooting 11 of 14 (78.6%) from the field.
  • Donor of tone: “It’s a first time for some guys,” Irving said after the 1st quarter. “There were nerves. I’ve been here before – I need to set a precedent.

Reminding: Irving was a rookie himself, and his takeover Wednesday felt a bit like his playoff debut in 2015, when he scored 20 before halftime.

  • 🗣️ Irving after his 2015 playoff debut: “I just came out aggressive. I wanted to get into the game and live with the results.
  • 🗣️ Irving on Wednesday’s Game 1: “I know that going offensively calms guys down…I have to stay aggressive all the time.”

1 For now: Nine years after his playoff debut, the veteran — who made one of the most iconic shots in NBA Finals history — lifted his team again and again on the big stage, especially in iso situations.

  • Best iso defender: Irving leads the entire NBA in the playoffs in iso defense (1-on-1), limiting opponents to just 13.3% shooting.
  • 4th in ISO infraction: In 1-on-1 offensive situations, Irving is shooting 44% this postseason – the 4th-best mark in the NBA among players with 50+ FGA

Hungry: Irving, the 2016 champion, hasn’t been to the Finals since 2017 and is eager to return with a Mavs team that hasn’t been there since 2011.

  • 🗣️ Irving: “Failure motivates you and inspires you…I’m not going to take that for granted.”

Anecdote! Rank these players by 2nd half PPG in the 2024 playoffs