Tim BontempsESPN4 minutes to read
Philadelphia — After losing the Dallas Mavericks for the 14th time in 20 games since Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic took the court as teammates, Irving said that’s a far cry from where he expected the team to be when he arrived in Dallas nearly two months ago.
Irving, speaking after Wednesday night’s 116-108 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center, said the main question for him now is what does the Mavs’ future look like?
“I think now, again, just where we are in the season, and where the other teams are already, it kind of looks like a bunch, to be honest with you,” said Irving. “Because we’re 37-40, and we’re trying to fight to get into the game of play. It’s not the expectations I don’t think any of us had in that dressing room.”
Irving, who had 23 points, six rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes, said adjusting to being traded midseason for the first time in his NBA career gave him “a lot of freshness” after his time with the Brooklyn Nets came to an abrupt end.
“I didn’t expect to ask for a trade at that point in the season,” he said. “So I wanted to finish with Brooklyn, finish the season we were going to, and I didn’t get the chance to do that. So some of the goals I scored earlier this season had to change, and I had to be more than willing, and I am, to be Flexible, adaptable and live with results, whether we make the playoffs or not.
“I have to be at peace with where I am and what I am, and I trust the guys I’m going to be in this war room with every single day. So, I appreciate them giving me a chance. It was nothing but wonderful here. And I was at peace.”
Irving added, “It was good – apart from the losses, of course. We like to win every game.”
Wins have been few and far between for Dallas over the past several weeks, as the Mavericks have lost five of six games to falter all the way out of Western Conference playing spots. Since trading for Irving, the Mavericks are 9-14 — and 6-14 since he and Doncic first played together on Feb. 11 in Sacramento.
The Mavs’ loss to Philadelphia, along with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s last-second win against the Detroit Pistons by rookie Jalen Williams, now has Dallas sitting behind the Thunder in the 10th and final spot to play in the West.
To make matters worse for the Mavericks (37-40), Oklahoma City also owns the tiebreaker thanks to winning the season series. So, Dallas now heads to Miami, where it will play the Heat on Saturday before visiting the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday for a back-to-back game, before returning to Dallas to finish off the season with home games against Sacramento, Chicago and San Antonio.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Doncic, who scored 24 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in Wednesday’s loss. “We were in a play-off and now we’re trying to get into the game, so obviously it’s frustrating.”
Dallas had chances against Philadelphia (50-26), which brought back stars James Harden (Achilles) and Joel Embiid (calf), but it looked like a team that was playing in a fourth time zone in a week. As a result, Dallas remained in control for long periods of the game, only to allow Philadelphia to run powerful shutout runs over the final two minutes of both the second and third quarters (9-2 and 10-5, respectively).
Philadelphia outscored Dallas 16-5 during the final seven minutes to secure the victory.
Irving said the loss was hard and that the Mavs “have to go through the pains of growing as a team”.
“We learn from each other quickly and just learn how to win ball games and maintain a mental edge over our opponents no matter who we play,” he said. “So we’re definitely learning in that direction. But in terms of now where we’re in control of our current destiny as a team against the Sixers, I feel like we have a great chance of winning this game, you know, just our poise over the distance wasn’t at the high level we needed to get that win.” And they took full advantage of it.”
Despite finding themselves out of playing positions with 10 days left in the regular season, Irving, Donczyk and Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd expressed optimism that the team still had enough time to work out the issue.
“I think it’s always possible,” Kidd said. “It’s, you know, just your belief system—if you believe in it and have positive energy and aren’t selfish. That’s where it starts. It’s about the team. You win as a team, you lose as a team, and you try to get better as a team.”
“It’s not just, you know, [Kyrie] and Luca. Everyone got open shots tonight, and we just had to be able to make them. When you look at the first 3 Reggie’s made it, they couldn’t afford one. Maxie makes one and then turns some down. But, you know, we’ve talked about doing Play right, hit or miss, that’s how you have to live. If you start to say no to things, you’re going to turn into the basketball gods that will confront you. So we just have to, you know, stay together, stay positive, and find a way to win in Miami.” .
When asked about the process of building chemistry, Doncic said there was no time to worry about that.
“I mean, I don’t think it had something to do with the chemistry,” he said. “We just have to win matches. That’s it.”
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