The takeaways: Kyrie Irving, again, showed how special he is

By now, opponents should know if they give Kyrie Irving an inch, the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar guard will take the proverbial mile.

The Los Angles Clippers discovered that the hard way Friday night when Irving tallied 28 of his 30 points in the second half in steering the Mavs to a 114-101 triumph in Game 6 of the first round of the Western Conference best-of-seven playoff series. The heroes by Irving clinched this series for the Mavs, 4-2, and they now move on to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West semifinals starting Tuesday at 8:30 pm in OKC.

Irving was absolutely phenomenal, especially in the second half when he scored nearly half of the 62 points the Mavs scored. When he wasn’t dropping in three-point shots or random two-pointers, Irving was shaking, twisting and turning defenders around, or flying by them at turbo-speed.

“(Kyrie) is (Kyrie),” Clippers forward Paul George said. “He just got extra aggressive. They played faster and I thought they got out in transition. I think there was a turnover we had (and) they got a layup in transition.

“That point turned where he saw the ball go in and started getting more aggressive and more aggressive. I think another possession we had a turnover or a missed shot, and he got a walk-up three. You give someone like Kai those looks, that basket gets bigger and bigger. I think that is really all that he needed to see and everything else was a playground for him.”

Indeed, it was a playground for Irving, because he’s so ultra-talented that sometimes it appears as though he’s toying with so-called defenders. Irving scored 13 points in the third quarter when the Mavs outscored LA, 35-20, and he also scored 15 of the 27 points Dallas tallied in the fourth quarter.

“I didn’t get as many looks as I probably am used to getting (in the first half), or I would have wanted,” Irving said. “I was just following the flow of the game and coming out of halftime just being ready to use my conditioning to the best of my ability and beat them up and down the court and continue to play some tough defense and get some easy ones for my teammates.”

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue admitted his team “didn’t do a good job” containing Irving, although that was their game plan for this series.

“We understand that (Mavs guard) Luka (Dončić) is going to get him,” Lue said. “If you double-team him or blitz him, he’s going to pick you apart. We just figured that the guy we wanted to try to take out of the series was Kyrie.

“We had him (contained in the first half), which we did a good job. But you know, the second half of this game, I

think (Mavs coach Jason) Kidd did a great job and just gave him space — let him play one-on-one.”Kyrie

And a Kyrie Irving in space playing one-on-one against anyone is a very dangerous Kyrie Irving.

“We’re supposed to be firing and trying to get the ball out of his hands, but he’s so quick and shifty,” Lue said. “So, it was tough on us.

“Kyrie is a special player. I’ve always said that, and (he) has no offensive weaknesses. He can do everything on the floor. And he had a really big second half to propel his team to win.”

Lue knows first-hand how special Irving is. Irving was one of the star players – and Lue was the coach – when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 LukeNBA title. So, their bond runs deep.

As of now, Irving – he scored five points when the Mavs shook free from a 52-52 halftime tie and opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run — would like to lead the Mavs to their second NBA title in franchise history.

Meanwhile, after Irving scored just two points in the first half, he had a little chat with Dončić.

“He was trying to get going, and he said to me, ‘I’m going to get it going,’ “Dončić said. “Never in doubt with Kai.

“(It’s) just amazing to see the kind of plays he makes.”

Forward PJ Washington is in complete agreement.

“(It was) unbelievable,” Washington said. “It’s like NBA 2K. (It was like) a mamba takeover.

“He was just doing what he did. He is special and I am just glad to be on his team.”

Here are the three takeaways from the Mavs’ 13-point win over the Clippers.

THE GAFFORD/WASHINGTON EFFECT: On Friday, the Mavs saw the fruits of those two trades they made on Feb. 8 that brought in center Daniel Gafford Gaffordand forward PJ Washington. The duo combined to score 27 points, grab 11 rebounds and shoot 9-of-17 from the field in Friday’s win. “They’re very important when you look at the culture of our team,” coach Jason Kidd said. “Our defense changed when they got here. They’re not going to complain. You don’t have to run a play for them. They want to do whatever it takes for the team to win. We’ve said this since they’ve gotten here, over and over. We’ve been so consistent that they’ve changed the culture and just understanding that our defense came when they arrived. We needed that in this series and we’re going to need that going forward. Those two are very important to what we’re trying to do.” Washington had 14 points and five rebounds Friday, and Gafford added 13 points and six boards.

HOLDING THE (THREE-POINT) LINE: The Mavs zeroed in on shutting the door down on the Clippers’ three-point excellence, and that strategy worked to near perfection and really told the whole story of this series. In Game 1, the Clippers were 18-of-36 from three-point range and won the game. In Game 2, the Clippers were 8-of-30 from downtown and the Mavs prevailed. Fast-forward to Game 3, and the Mavs also won when holding the Clippers to 10-of-29 shooting from behind the three-point line. But the Clippers re-grouped and tied the series at 2-2 when they converted 18-of-29 shots from beyond the three-point arc. The Mavs won Game 5 when they aggressively harassed the Clippers into shooting just 9-of-35 from downtown. And in the series clincher in Game 6, the Clippers were just 8-of-31 from behind the three-point stripe. For the Clippers, Paul George was just 2-of-10 from three-point land in Game 6, andPJ James Harden missed all six of his three-point attempts.

ROWDY, LOUD AND PROUD: The American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 20,625 was as loud as it’s been all season. The deafening crowd, the Mavs said, played a big role in them eliminating the Clippers from the playoffs. “The AAC was definitely rocking,” guard Kyrie Irving said. “I remember Maxi (Kleber) hitting a three (Friday), and I had never heard it that loud in there. Just to see the fans’ reactions, to see them appreciate the game of basketball, and also their home team, it feels good and you feel right at home. Even when we’re not playing well, they still try to give us energy as best they can. Knowing other fan bases that I’ve been a part of, it could get real toxic. Here, I think there’s a good balance and they like to protect their players. A lot of great players have come through here as well. It’s not like they haven’t seen greatness before. I just think under my era right now, we have a great team, and we should appreciate (the fans) and not take it for granted.”

X: @DwainPrice



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