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Jun 7, 2024 2:10 pm

Mavericks’ Irving credits Celtics, not crowd, for Game 1 loss

kyrie irving

BOSTON — Getting back at the Celtics — or more specifically, their fans — has been no easy task for Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving.

Dallas’ 107-89 loss to Boston in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night dropped Irving to 0-11 in his past 11 games against the Celtics, who were the victims of a change of heart by the eight-time All-Star nearly five years ago.

Speaking to the Boston faithful at TD Garden in October 2018, Irving expressed his desire to re-sign with the Celtics once the free agency window opened eight months later.

But when the time came for Irving to live up to his promise, he didn’t, choosing the Brooklyn Nets over Boston on June 30, 2019.

Nearly half a decade has gone by since Irving’s decision, but it was clear that anyone wearing green and white at Game 1 hasn’t forgotten about it. Boos were among the kindest things Irving heard whenever he touched the ball, and his 12 points on 6-of-19 shooting certainly weren’t enough to quiet the crowd.

Still, Irving insists the chaotic atmosphere didn’t throw him off his game.

“The energy has to be focused towards the game. I felt like I had a lot of great looks. They hit back rim or were just a little left or right,” Irving said. “Just got to stay confident and stay poised throughout this, man. This is the best time of the year to be playing. There’s only two teams left. Let’s put it in perspective.

“The environment is going to be what it is, but my focus is on our game plan and making sure my guys feel confident and I feel confident and continue to shoot great shots.”

Irving may have even added some more fuel to the fire, noting that he imagined it would have been “a little louder” at TD Garden on Thursday. However, he did praise the Celtics for consistently being the better team when going up against him.

“I don’t want to continue to make it a habit, but they’ve had a few games over me and they have our number — not our number, I don’t want to say our number, but the past few teams I’ve been on, they have had my number a little bit,” Irving said. “You have to give credit to a good team. They have been good the past three or four years.”

Unlike Irving, Boston big man Kristaps Porzingis heard Celtics fans loud and clear.

Porzingis hadn’t played since April 29, missing Boston’s previous 10 games due to a right calf strain that he sustained during Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Miami Heat.

Before he even stepped onto the hardwood on Thursday, Porzingis was met with an overwhelming ovation, as Boston fans went into a frenzy when the former Maverick was shown making his way through the tunnel on the video board.

Once Porzingis emerged, the crowd became deafening, and the Celtics’ prized offseason acquisition rode the enthusiastic welcome back to a 20-point night off the bench. He also finished with six rebounds and three blocks, making a significant impact in just 21 minutes of action.

“I think obviously what helped me is just even from the walk out before the game and then getting on the court, getting that kind of support was unreal,” Porzingis said. “The adrenaline was pumping through my veins and that definitely helped.

“Obviously it wasn’t ideal that I was out for such a long time, but I did everything I could to prepare mentally for this moment coming back and it paid off and we got the job done (Thursday).”

Game 2 is set for Sunday in Boston.

–Nick Galle, Field Level Media

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