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Jun 5, 2024 6:24 pm

Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving has ‘no fear’ in return to Boston for NBA Finals

Kyrie Irving

BOSTON — A pair of stars will need no introduction when the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks meet for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

Dallas guard Kyrie Irving and Boston big man Kristaps Porzingis find themselves pitted against their former teams, with Irving’s breakup with the Celtics getting much messier than Porzingis’ departure from the Mavericks.

Irving spent two seasons in Boston and told fans that he planned on re-signing with the Celtics following the 2018-19 campaign.

That didn’t happen, though, and Irving broke for the Brooklyn Nets once the summer rolled around. He has been met with boos when playing in Boston ever since while posting an 0-10 record overall in his past 10 games against the Celtics.

But a hostile environment is the last thing Irving is worried about on the NBA’s biggest stage.

“There’s no fear out here, man. It’s basketball,” Irving said. “The fans are going to say what they’re going to say. I appreciate them and their relationship they have to the game. But it’s about the players at the end of the day.”

Dallas moved on from Porzingis at the 2022 trade deadline, shipping him to the Washington Wizards after deciding that he wasn’t the right piece to pair with star guard Luka Doncic.

“I don’t know why it didn’t work out,” Doncic said. “We were still both young. We tried to make it work, but it just didn’t work.”

History aside, both Irving and Porzingis are primarily concerned with helping their current teams lock up a championship for the first time in over a decade. The Mavericks’ last title came in 2011, while Boston hasn’t gone all the way since 2008.

The Celtics had a golden opportunity to secure their 18th title in franchise history just two years ago, but they fell 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Looking back on it now, Boston star Jayson Tatum thinks there was a silver lining in coming up short.

“It was a lesson to be learned,” Tatum said. “I told myself that if I ever got the opportunity again to make it to the Finals, that (I’d) never take it for granted. Obviously, we’re here now and thankful to be here.

“I’m excited to get ready to play and have fun (Thursday).”

Dallas, on the other hand, will be appearing in the Finals for the first time since its title run 13 years ago. Irving, Markieff Morris and Derrick Jones Jr. are the only Mavericks with experience in this stage of the postseason.

“Some of us for the Mavs have been here, some of us haven’t,” said Dallas coach Jason Kidd, who was the starting point guard on the Mavericks’ 2011 championship team. “We’re going to embrace that and find a way to hopefully win a series.”

Beating the Celtics could get a lot harder depending on the health of Porzingis, who has missed the past 10 games due to a right soleus (calf) strain. Porzingis will be good to go for Game 1, but he’s unsure if he will be operating at 100 percent.

“I did as much as I could to prepare for this moment, but there’s nothing like game minutes and game experience that I’m going to get (Thursday),” Porzingis said. “It will be tough to jump into the Finals like this.”

–Nick Galle, Field Level Media

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