Mavericks Notes: Irving, Doncic, Gafford, Hardy, Kleber

After the Game 5 win at Oklahoma City, Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving called the matchup with the Thunder “one of the hardest series I’ve ever played,” according to a Dallas Morning News article (subscription required). It’s a significant statement for a player who holds a championship ring and has made three trips to the NBA Finals, but Irving explained why OKC has been an especially difficult opponent.

“It’s just really just the pace and just the physicality,” he said. “And last series was physical too, and the pace was a little different. But I think just this series, it’s challenged me physically, mentally, emotionally. I’ve accepted that and I’ve focused on the things that I can control and focused on getting my guys going early. And however the game plays out, it’s going to play out. But I’m really laying my hat on the defensive end and giving a lot of effort and and just trying to make the right plays offensively. They’re putting three on the ball at times for me and I could obviously take a lot of tough shots and I think that’s coming in the near future when it’s needed. But for right now just reading the game and allowing the basketball gods to shower me with a lot of love when you’re playing the right way.”

Irving also discussed the increased focus that Luka Doncic brought to Game 5. Doncic told his teammates before the contest that he wasn’t going to complain to the officials and was focusing on playing basketball and having fun.

“I think he’s just being smart and taking advice from the guys that have been in situations like this before and trusting that we have his back,” Irving said. “Some of the times when he’s going to the refs, he really feels like that’s an individual thing, and I think he could speak on it, too. He’s just in the moment and he’s very emotional as we all are as competitors. But the bigger picture is what matters. And him focusing his energy on the right places and specifically focusing on his shots and also doing the little things for us on the defensive end, getting rebounds like he’s doing and he’s been doing all season, it works well for us.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • The Mavericks have virtually remade their roster over the past 20 months, surrounding Doncic with a much better defensive team, observes Zach Lowe of ESPN (subscription required). Lowe suggests that the Thunder might be regretting the role they played in helping the Mavs acquire Daniel Gafford, who has provided an interior anchor for the defense. OKC traded a 2024 first-round pick to Dallas in February in exchange for the right to swap first-rounders in 2028. The Mavericks sent that pick to Washington as part of the Gafford deal.
  • Second-year shooting guard Jaden Hardy appears to have replaced Dante Exum in the Mavericks’ playoff rotation, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Hardy played nearly 15 minutes in Game 5 and although he shot just 1-of-5 from the field, coach Jason Kidd was impressed by his overall game.
  • Kidd indicated that injured big man Maxi Kleber has a chance to return if Dallas reaches the conference finals, Townsend adds in a full story. Kleber suffered a right shoulder AC joint separation in a May 3 game and was scheduled to be reevaluated after three weeks. He was able to do some light shooting during Friday’s practice, Townsend adds.
View Comments (16)