After three straight games absent by both Kyrie Irving (right foot soreness) and Luka Doncic (left thigh strain), Irving’s return to the lineup was much anticipated. During this three game stretch, an overtime battle with a fifty-loss Spurs team was too close for comfort. Dallas found themselves in overtime play after a miscue by Maxi Kleber that allowed San Antonio to tie the game in regulation.
Nevertheless Irving dazzled in his return vs. the Lakers, finishing with 38 points, six assists, and six rebounds. As we know, it was Maxi Kleber who stole all of the attention (after Irving had the attention of Laker defenders all night).
It came as no surprise that the ball was in Irving’s hands for the final possession, trailing by just 2-points. As Irving drove to the rim, the defense collapsed on him with a designed double team. Anthony Davis was gravitated toward the paint as a result of Irving’s attack, which left Kleber open on the weakside wing for the game winning three point shot.
There are a lot of words that could be used to describe the level of play that Kyrie Irving has brought to this Maverick team, but I find it equally as important to highlight the intangibles that he has brought along with him – his leadership.
Kleber praised Irving for lifting him up following his unimpressive outing in San Antonio, prior to the game winner. “He has always positive spirits, uplifting words, and all that. I’m very appreciative to be able to play with him. I learn a lot from just like his body language, the way he interacts with his teammates, and just a great character guy”, Kleber said on teammate Kyrie Irving.
Dallas finds themselves in a tight playoff race out West with very little separation from the 6th seed to the play-in spots. After a disappointing blown 16-point lead to the Grizzlies, Memphis defeated Dallas for the third time within 10 days. Yet another 4th quarter collapse that included an uncharacteristic 0-8 shooting performance from Irving.
With a struggle to closeout games, it’s no secret that adding the closer, Luka Doncic back to the mix will be beneficial. Doncic remains day-to-day as he recovers from a quad injury. His next opportunity to play will be at home against Golden State, with playoff seeding tie breaker implications on the line.