Boston Celtics

Kyrie Irving reacts to losing NBA Finals vs. former Celtics teammates

Irving was held under 20 points three times in five games.

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The Dallas Mavericks needed Kyrie Irving to consistently play at an elite level for them to beat his former team, the Boston Celtics, in the 2024 NBA Finals. But outside of Game 3 and the first half of Game 4, Irving didn't deliver when the Mavs needed him most.

The Celtics clinched their league-leading 18th championship with a 106-88 victory over the Mavericks in Game 5 of the series Monday night at TD Garden.

Irving scored just 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting with nine assists and three rebounds in 41 minutes. He was held under 20 points in three of the five games and shot just 27.6 percent from 3-point range.

In the final minutes of Game 5, Irving went over to some of the Celtics players, as well as head coach Joe Mazzulla, and congratulated them. He then walked off the floor to the bench as the Mavericks started to pull their starters.

What was going through Irving's mind in that moment?

"Yeah, it was emotional anyway. I mean, every series was emotional, just because I was just uncertain on how it was going to go and how we were going to respond to a little bit of adversity," Irving told reporters in his postgame press conference.

"We finally ran into a team where they beat us fair and square, and we weren't able to respond to a lot of their runs and we weren't able to execute at a high level. So when I was shaking everybody's hands, that was more of a sign of respect for their journey. They have been through an incredible five-year span of going to Game 7s or losing in the Finals, so they know what this bitter feeling feels like being up here answer answering questions about when this next year holds and I think they used everything as motivation.

"They were healthy, and they really kept their head down and weren't paying attention to any of the personal accolades or individual accolades. I think they just came together as a team and were okay with each person being great in their role and selflessly putting their best foot forward. So I think we learned more than anything from this series on what it takes to not only get back to this level, but win at this level, and the Celtics are the perfect example for us this season because of how much they have had to deal with in the past few years."

Irving specifically praised Celtics stars Jaylen Brown -- who earned 2024 NBA Finals MVP -- and Jayson Tatum for their roles in helping the Celtics win a title.

"Yeah, that was big-time to see that trophy in his hands," Irving said of Brown winning MVP. "I think him and JT should have split it, but those two guys in particular have, you know, almost been like students and as well now becoming teachers in their own right.

"So to see them accomplish -- see them accomplish that, I'm really proud and also extremely motivated to get back to this position in the next few years with my guys and be able to win this thing."

Celtics fans booed Irving quite a bit in this series. He became one of the top villains in Boston sports after leaving the franchise as a free agent in 2019.

The Celtics ultimately got the last laugh, defeating Irving on the game's biggest stage to claim their first championship since 2008.

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