Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving take blame for Mavs' loss to Wolves

May 29, 2024, 1:59 AM

DALLAS --  Luka Doncic blamed himself for the Dallas Mavericks having to board a flight to Minneapolis instead of beginning their break before the NBA Finals.

"I think that game is on me," Doncic said after the Mavs failed to finish the Western Conference semifinals with a sweep, suffering a 105-100 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Tuesday's Game 4. "I just didn't give enough energy."

Doncic recorded his sixth triple-double of these playoffs with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. However, he had a poor shooting performance (7-of-21 from the floor) and matched Mavs forward P.J. Washington for the worst plus-minus of the night (minus-13).

Dallas co-star Kyrie Irving also had his worst offensive outing of the series, which Dallas leads 3-1, scoring 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting with four turnovers. Irving also took accountability for the Mavs' five-game winning streak getting snapped, specifically citing his sloppiness in the first quarter for setting the wrong tone.

"He's not alone in this," Irving said. "I expect him to say something like that, especially knowing how much he cares and how much he wants to win and how much he wants to lead our group. So I expect nothing less. I think you heard me, too, just say that it's on me. That's what you're supposed to hear from your leaders of your team."

The Timberwolves changed the primary defensive assignments on Dallas' star duo. Jaden McDaniels, who had the Doncic assignment for the first three games of the series, chased Irving in Game 4. Anthony Edwards defended Doncic after spending most of the first three games on Irving.

It was the first time this postseason that Doncic and Irving both shot worse than 35% from the floor.

"It's not on them, it's on us as a team," Mavs forward Derrick Jones Jr. said. "We are a unit. We go out there, and we play together, we win together, we lose together. It's not on one person. I know that they're the leaders of the team, that head of the snake, but we got their back through thick and through thin."

Doncic, who was 5-of-15 from the floor when Edwards was his primary defender, did not directly answer a question about the impact of the Minnesota superstar guarding him. Doncic instead blamed himself for the loss, although he later called Edwards (29 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) an "amazing player."

Irving credited McDaniels, a second-team All-Defensive selection, for preventing him from getting in a good rhythm.

"He has a huge impact," Irving said. "I mean, he is a 6-9 wing defender that I'm seeing now for the first time from the start of the game. So it's going to be an adjustment, but I love it. I relish in these type opportunities."

The loss was the first blemish on Irving's career record in potential closeout games. He is now 14-1 when his team has the opportunity to eliminate an opponent, ending the longest individual winning streak in NBA history in such situations.

"It's a new space," Irving said. "So now we just got to deal with this one, deal with this loss and get ready for Minnesota and enjoy that crowd there, man, because it's going to be hostile."