Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving get brutally honest on scoring frustrations vs. Thunder

The Mavericks need Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to start scoring at a consistent level once again.

DALLAS —  Defense told the story in Game 4 of the Dallas Mavericks-Oklahoma City Thunder Western Conference Semifinals series. Dallas did not let the Thunder have anything easy around the basket. Nevertheless, the Thunder defeated the Mavs 100-96 in Game 4 to even the series up at two games each. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving struggled to find much of a rhythm on the offensive end.

PJ Washington delivered another 20-plus point performance, as he finished with 21 points in the defeat. Doncic recorded 18 points on 6-20 shooting from the field and 2-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Kyrie Irving had just nine points on 4-11 shooting and 0-2 shooting from deep.

The Mavs superstars both scored 22 points in Game 3. Neither Doncic or Irving had excellent scoring performances, but PJ Washington dropped 20 points and the Mavericks earned a victory. Dallas almost pulled out another victory amid Doncic and Irving’s scoring woes on Monday, but the Mavs ultimately fell just short.

The Mavericks are going to need Doncic and Irving to score more if they are going to not only win this series against the Thunder, but make a run to the NBA Finals. When both players struggle to find the bottom of the net, Dallas’ offense suffers as a result.

“We didn’t think this was gonna be easy, I don’t think they (Thunder) thought it was going to be easy,” Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said after Game 4. “It’s a game of runs. They made a run late in the fourth. We had an opportunity to tie it, we didn’t capitalize on it. We look at the scorers on both sides, the percentages aren’t always gonna be great… I think Kai (Kyrie Irving) is doing a great job of leading on the defensive end. He’s taking his opportunities on the offensive end, he just didn’t knock them down tonight.”

Kyrie and Luka address their difficult scoring nights after Mavericks loss

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) walks back up the court during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Doncic and Irving acknowledged that Oklahoma City is focusing on containing them. The Thunder feature an impressive defense and it almost appears as if they are willing to let other players score as long as Luka and Kyrie don’t find their rhythm.

“I think there’s a focus on us,” Doncic said after the game. “They collapsed the paint very well. When we will drive it, they collapse the paint… almost five guys. I think that’s been difficult for us. We just gotta find open teammates.”

Irving echoed a similar sentiment when discussing the Thunder’s gameplan against Doncic and himself.

“We’re making the right basketball plays right now,” Irving said. “I’m seeing three in front of the ball every time I come off the screen, pretty much blitzing me, pretty much telling me to get off the ball. With Luka, they’re telling (Luguentz) Dort to stay attached to his body, stay aggressive, stay physical. When you’re in the height of a semifinals playoff series, it’s gonna be a little bit different than the regular season. For us, it’s just about picking the right spots.”

Irving understands that the Mavericks need their stars to continue being aggressive. He also knows that Doncic and himself can help each other out.

“Continuing to stay aggressive. You know, making sure we play off each other… I think sometimes I can help Luka, he can help me. We create easy opportunities for ourselves when we’re doing that as a team…. I gotta give credit to my teammates. They’ve been carrying not only me, but Luka in this series so far. We’re looking forward to Games Five and Six.”

Kyrie Irving’s message: “Don’t panic”

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) warms up before the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Irving has played in no shortage of postseason series. He is more than aware that a 2-2 series is not the end of the world. Irving shared a positive message after Monday’s defeat.

“Don’t panic and just stay poised,” Irving said. “It’s not time to have irrational emotions towards a game like tonight… We had the game pretty much in our hands and in control and then down the stretch we just didn’t make enough of the clutch plays… As one of the leaders of the team, it’s definitely part of my responsibility to take my accountability for what I did. How I can improve moving forward.

“In terms of how our team played, I feel like we played well enough to get the W tonight the majority of the game. But we just didn’t finish the job and the little things matter.”

The Mavericks will attempt to bounce back on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.