Mavericks Notes: Playoff Success, Irving, Doncic, Finals Matchup

The Mavericks didn’t mind being under the radar when the playoffs started, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas didn’t get much notice after going 50-32 and finishing as the No. 5 seed in the West, but the team was much more dangerous than its record indicated. The Mavs closed the regular season on a 15-1 run and were fully confident heading into the postseason, as Kyrie Irving explained after the team punched its ticket to the NBA Finals Thursday night.

“We’ve grown over the past few months,” Irving said. “This has been a journey for us. I like to think that being fifth took some pressure off of us coming into this postseason. Everybody was looking at the top three seeds, so I felt like we snuck in there a little bit and surprised a few teams. But the guys in the locker room have always had that utmost confidence in one another.”

The Mavericks’ journey from a lottery team last season to potential NBA champs was punctuated by a pair of deadline deals in February that brought in Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington. Combined with the addition of Dereck Lively II in last year’s draft, that created a versatile supporting cast around Irving and Luka Doncic.

“If you look at our regular season, I don’t think it tells the whole truth of who we are — or who we were,” Irving added. “I felt like the second half of the season, everybody got to kind of see what we were made of.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Minority team owner Mark Cuban believes Dallas was able to rejuvenate Irving “by listening to him and not telling him,” Marc Stein notes in a Substack column. There were plenty of doubters when the Mavs traded for Irving in February 2023 and again when they re-signed him last summer, but he and Doncic have figured out how to be successful together. The organization has created an ideal environment for Irving, Stein adds. Jason Kidd is a head coach he respects, general manger Nico Harrison was Irving’s longtime business partner at Nike, assistant coach God Shammgod is a close friend who works with Irving every day, and Markieff Morris is a trusted teammate who provides emotional support.
  • Doncic took control early in Game 5 and sent a message that the Mavericks were ready to close out the series, observes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. He finished with 36 points, his highest-scoring game of the playoffs, and 10 of those came in the first 2:33 of action. “It was Luka magic mode,” Kidd said. “He set the tone, and then he made it easier for everyone else. Everybody else stepped up.”
  • The Celtics will present a fresh matchup problem for the Mavericks in the Finals, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger points out that Dallas likes to keep its centers close to the basket, even if that means giving up three-point shots to opposing big men, but that’s a risky strategy against Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.
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