NBA finals: Kyrie Irving admits he must face ‘self-doubt’ in Boston to beat Celtics

If there’s one player who knows how badly the Boston Celtics want to shut down the Mavericks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night, it’s Kyrie Irving.

The Dallas point guard spent two seasons with Boston, but he has been a villain in the eyes of Celtics fans since leaving to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019. Chants attacking Irving were heard regularly at TD Garden in Games 1 and 2 of these finals – a pair of Mavericks losses in which Irving struggled mightily – before Boston went on the road and left Dallas with a 3-1 series lead.

And with the Celtics chasing the 18th title in franchise history, Irving has seemingly found peace with his place in Boston history as he prepares to return to a hostile environment.

“Now that I’m older, in retrospect, I definitely would have taken the time to get to know the people in the community and talk to some of the champions that came before me,” Irving told reporters on Sunday. “They have a championship status here… They expect you to seamlessly believe in the pride of the Celtics, in everything that is Celtic.

‘And if you don’t, you’ll be thrown out. I’m one of the people on the run. That’s fine with me, you know what I mean. I did it to myself.”

Irving, who won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, also admitted he must overcome shortcomings in his own game in Boston.

“I mean, let’s just call it what it is,” Irving said. “When the fans cheer ‘Kyrie sucks’ they feel like they have a psychological advantage, and that’s fair. Of course, if I don’t make shots or turn the ball over, it becomes an even more pressing problem for which they can stay with me.

“I think to silence even the self-doubt, let alone the crowd doubt, but the self-doubt when you’re making or missing shots, that’s just as important as making sure I’m the team lead the right way and be human. also through this experience, and tell them how I feel.

Boston had its own shortcomings on Friday, failing to put away the Mavericks while finishing on the wrong end of a 122-84 blowout in Game 4.

Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 15 points for the Celtics, and he hopes Boston rediscovers the brand of basketball that led them to 79 wins in 100 games between the regular season and the playoffs here in 2023-2024.

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“I think at that point we might have put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect or think it was going to go the way we wanted,” Tatum said of why the Celtics fell short on Friday. “[Coach Joe Mazzulla] did an excellent job of reminding us that it’s okay to smile during wars. It’s okay to have fun during high-pressure moments. That makes our team unique and special.”

Luka Dončić went for 29 points and Irving delivered 21 on Friday to keep Dallas’ season alive. The Mavericks are trying to become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Teams are 0-156 when they lose the first three games of a series.

“I think the most important thing is to show that we believe,” Dončić said. “I think we showed it in Game 4. If we didn’t believe that, we probably wouldn’t have won that game. So I think the conversation is obviously easy to talk about it, but then showing it is another thing.