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'Inspired' Kyrie Irving setting tone for Mavs in West Finals


Kyrie Irving discusses his big 1st half, matching up with Anthony Edwards and the importance of winning Game 1.

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Kyrie Irving spent the first two rounds of the playoffs as the closer, averaging 8.4 more pts in the second half (15.1) than the first (6.0).

But that all changed in Game 1 of the West Finals, propelling the Mavs to a 1-0 lead over the Wolves heading into tonight’s Game 2 (8:30 ET, TNT).

After a fast Irving start helped Dallas take a 1-0 lead, he’ll look to replicate that opening tonight in Game 2.

The change: Facing the Timberwolves’ top-ranked defense, and a Minnesota team surging after eliminating the defending champs — Irving pounced early and often on offense.

1st Quarter: After making a total of four shots on 13 attempts over six games combined in the West semifinals, Irving opened Game 1 with six buckets on nine attempts for 13 points in the 1st quarter1st Half: Irving scored 24 of his 30 points before halftime, going 11-of-14 (78.6%) from the fieldTone-Setter: “First time for some guys,” said Irving after the 1st quarter. “There were some nerves. I’ve been here before — need to set the precedent.”

Reminiscent: Irving was once a first-timer himself, and his takeover Wednesday looked a little like his playoff debut in 2015 when he went for 20 before the half.

🗣️ Irving after his 2015 playoff debut: “Just came out aggressive. I wanted to throw myself into the game and live with the results.”🗣️ Irving on Wednesday’s Game 1: “I know getting going offensively settles the guys … I gotta stay aggressive the whole time.”

1 For The Moment: Nine years since his playoff debut, the veteran — who knocked down one of the most iconic shots in NBA Finals history — has lifted his team again and again on the big stage, particularly in iso situations.

Top iso defender: Irving leads the entire NBA this postseason in iso (1-on-1) defense, holding opponents to just 13.3% shooting4th in iso offense: In 1-on-1 situations offensively, Irving is shooting 44% this postseason — the 4th-best mark in the NBA among players with 50+ FGA

Hungry: Irving, a 2016 champion, hasn’t been to the Finals since 2017 and is eager to return with a Mavs team that hasn’t been there since 2011.

🗣️ Irving: “You get motivation from failure, and you get inspired … I’m not going to take this for granted.”

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