Mavs’ Kyrie Irving makes home debut vs. revamped Wolves
If their first game together is any indication of what’s to come, Dallas Mavericks guards Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving won’t need long to find a rhythm.
The talented duo returns to the court Monday when the Mavericks face the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, who also shook up their roster last week.
Dallas had its three-game winning streak halted on Saturday with a 133-128 overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings. In his second game since being acquired from the Brooklyn Nets, Irving tallied 28 points and seven assists.
Monday’s contest in Dallas marks the home debut for Irving, who began his Mavericks career with back-to-back games in Sacramento.
“I’m excited to bring my game to Dallas and excite those fans,” Irving said. “I don’t think they’ve ever seen anybody like me before.”
Doncic returned after missing four games due to a heel injury and had 27 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s loss.
“For the first time for those guys to play minutes together, I thought it was really, really good,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “It was just natural. There was nothing forced. I thought this was a great game for us, as much as we would like to be on the winning side, just to play late with the game going back and forth, just understanding the dynamic of those two.”
Irving’s arrival has resulted in additional playing time for center JaVale McGee, who was buried on the team’s bench before averaging 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds over the past two games. Kidd said McGee is a perfect fit with Irving on pick-and-roll situations.
The Mavericks are monitoring the status of guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who missed the second half of Saturday’s game with right hamstring tightness.
The Mavs and the Wolves are meeting for the first time since splitting back-to-back games in Minnesota in mid-December. The Mavericks have won five straight and 22 of the last 30 matchups against the Timberwolves in Dallas.
Doncic is averaging 22.2 points (his lowest scoring average against any team) in 12 career games against the Wolves, who are hoping for a spark from newly acquired point guard Mike Conley.
Minnesota is concluding a four-game road trip after losing 128-107 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Conley, acquired from the Utah Jazz at the trade deadline, scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting in 26 minutes.
Last week’s trade reunited Conley with Wolves center Rudy Gobert after the pair played together in Utah the past three seasons. Minnesota coach Chris Finch said Conley’s arrival could provide immediate benefits for Gobert.
“We feel there’s more meat on the bone in being able to help maximize Rudy offensively,” Finch said. “We’ve been getting better at it. You’ve seen it, but it’s still not been seamless. Mike’s experience of playing alongside of him is going to really help.”
Minnesota has battled inconsistent play minus star Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been out for more than two months because of a calf injury. The Wolves are hoping the veteran Conley can bring some much-needed stability on both ends of the floor.
“This team hasn’t reached the potential that is out there, and that’s an exciting thing,” Conley said. “Coming in here and being a part of that, and hopefully helping that develop really quickly and allowing us to get to the playoffs and make a run at it.”
–Field Level Media