5 Players who must step up if Mavericks want to make the NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
4 of 5

2. Kyrie Irving

Labeling Kyrie Irving's second-round performance versus the Oklahoma City Thunder as a poor performance would be an extreme disservice to Irving and how he played in the series but it was without a doubt not the greatest shooting performance out of Irving's 19 playoff series that he has played in. Irving was pressured heavily by the Thunder's flurry of stellar point-of-attack defenders, and they were extremely timely with their traps, oftentimes forcing Irving to get rid of the ball before he could even gather to make a move to get to his spot.

This will be no different against the Timberwolves in the Conference Finals, as they have the presumptive best defense in the NBA as aforementioned, but with Irving being one of the best difficult shotmakers of all-time, hopefully he can turn things around against the Timberwolves from a shooting perspective.

Irving shot poorly by his standards in a few of Dallas' contests throughout the second round, but it should be noted that the on-ball pressure of the Thunder's defense hindered Irving from getting his normal amount of field-goal attempts up compared to usual, as he only averaged 14 field goal attempts per game throughout the series.

Irving also had some uncharacteristic turnovers in the first couple of games of Dallas' second-round series versus the Thunder, so while the defense in the Conference Finals versus the Timberwolves will be similarly irritating for Irving as it was in the second round, it can be argued that Irving was off of his game from a mental perspective a little bit in Dallas' series versus the Thunder.

If Irving is clicking from a shooting perspective against the Timberwolves, the Mavericks will have a much better chance at advancing to the NBA Finals compared to if it isn't. On the bright side though, Irving is a trained veteran and has proven that his defense, playmaking, and leadership will remain as constant positives regardless of how he is shooting the ball, which should be encouraging for Mavericks fans heading into the third round of the playoffs.