Dallas Mavericks' Kyrie Irving Expects OKC Thunder's 'Best Shot' in Pivotal Game 6

When the Dallas Mavericks face the Oklahoma City Thunder during Saturday's pivotal Game 6, Kyrie Irving expects their "best shot."
May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots as Oklahoma City
May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots as Oklahoma City / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — After securing a crucial 104-92 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5, the Dallas Mavericks are focused on ending the series and advancing to the Western Conference finals. Holding a 3-2 lead, a win on Saturday would mark the second time in three seasons that Dallas has reached the conference finals. Luka Doncic, who played a pivotal role with a 31-point triple-double, has been a cornerstone of the Mavericks' success.

Reflecting on his perfect 13-0 record in career closeout games, Kyrie Irving emphasized the need to stay focused and humble. He expressed gratitude for his career achievements and recognized the special teams he’s been a part of.

“I mean, that record doesn’t mean anything going into tonight. We’ve still got to go out and play our game and do the little things,” Irving said. “But I’m glad and grateful to have that part of my career, where I can look back and say I had some special teams where we finished off the job.”

May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots as Oklahoma City
May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots as Oklahoma City / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Irving, averaging 14.4 points, 6.8 assists, and 2.4 rebounds in the series, acknowledged the high stakes for Oklahoma City when discussing the intensity of facing the Thunder, acknowledging how the team expects their opposition's "best shot" in this game. Irving recently described this series as being "one of the most difficult" he's played.

“In these types of games, you expect their best shot,” Irving said, understanding that the Thunder are fighting to extend their season. “More than desperation, we know this is their last chance to save their season. The feelings don’t really need to be talked about. We kind of know what it is.”

Irving also highlighted the importance of setting the tone early in the game, but underscored the unpredictability of how the game starts.

“Would it be ideal to punch them first to get some doubt in their minds? I mean, it’s basketball,” Irving stated. “It’s just depending on how everybody feels to start the game at 7 p.m. If we all do the right things, then we’ll see that. But right now, we can only predict. So, we’re just gonna get some rest and get prepared to play.”

Irving admired the Thunder's young roster for its resilience and teamwork. He pointed out the significant time the Thunder players have spent playing together, which has only further made them a formidable team with significant long-term potential.

“What’s impressed me most? I think their resolve and how they did it,” Irving noted. “You look at their record and how many minutes they clocked in together as a group. Facing them in the playoffs, you realize they’re a great young core, and they’re going to challenge us for the next few years. I’m grateful we got the opportunity to be in this series. No matter what happens, I feel like I grew as a player going against them.”

Addressing the challenges of closing out a series, Irving underscored the mental and emotional preparation required. He acknowledged the added pressure of closeout games, especially on home court with the electrified atmosphere from the American Airlines Center.

“Closeout games are the hardest,” Irving said. “What I’d like to see from our team is our poise, our approach, and our mentality. It’s going to be rocking, but it’s really about us making peace with those emotions, embracing them, and then just playing our game. It’s basketball at the end of the day, but in closeout games, especially on your home floor, there’s added pressure. I think you just gotta say it out loud, embrace it, and move forward. We’re gonna put our best foot forward. That’s the goal.”

Irving also praised Doncic’s performance in Game 5, highlighting his focus and leadership. Additionally, Irving recognized the imperfections in officiating and the natural human reactions during high-stakes games, granting Doncic, or any player, grace in handling those situations.

“He was superb, and I talked about it on the podium. When he’s putting his energy in the right places, we’re a better team,” Irving said. “Referees are not perfect; the officiating is not perfect. So, I don’t expect a human being competing for something they love to just be silent the whole game. You’re allowed to be human out here.”

As the Mavericks aim to close ou tthe Thunder, Irving stressed the importance of supporting Doncic when emotions run high.

“When he goes beyond his threshold and can’t control his emotions, he has to rely on us as teammates," Irving said. "We continue to affirm that he’s doing the right things, and we want him to stay aggressive on both ends of the court. Easier said than done, but emotions and trust go hand in hand. We’re playing out there together.”

As the Mavericks prepare for Game 6, Irving’s focus on leadership and teamwork will be crucial. With his perfect closeout game record on the line, the Mavericks will rely on their depth and resilience to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

READ MORE: Dallas Mavericks Exclusive: Derrick Jones Jr. Loving Role Playing 'Natural Position'

Stick with MavericksGameday for more coverage of the Dallas Mavericks throughout the NBA Playoffs 

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Grant Afseth

GRANT AFSETH

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.