Sports

Kyrie Irving on what has to change for Dallas: 'It starts with me'

DALLAS — (AP) — The last 12 games where Kyrie Irving has played against the Boston Celtics have all ended with the same outcome.

His team lost.

It's a streak that Irving and the Dallas Mavericks would desperately like to see end Wednesday night, when they play host to the Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Boston leads the series 2-0.

“First thing of that is just accepting that I haven’t played well or up to my standards, as well as I would have liked,” Irving said. “Being back in Boston, there’s such a level of desire that I have inside of me to play well. Wanted to be there for my teammates. As a competitor, it’s frustrating. But I don’t want to let that seep in or spill over to any other decisions I have to make there as a player.”

Irving shot only 35% in the first two games of these finals in Boston, averaging 14 points and four assists in his former home arena — where fans make clear that they don't like him much. He's shot 50% or less in each of his last 10 games against the Celtics.

“I just can feel the stakes being raised up a little bit more,” Irving said. “The pressure is natural. Makes diamonds. ... We just have to continue to lean in on each other, especially when it gets tough out there. We’re going against a great team. They’re not going to stop pressing us, stop their pace, stop testing us on both ends of the floor. We know what we’re in for. But now we have to raise it to an even higher level, and it starts with me.”

The odds

Dallas is a 2.5-point favorite in Game 3, according to BetMGM Sportsbook, and unless the line changes significantly it'll mark a rare instance of Boston being an underdog this season.

Wednesday will be the Celtics' 99th game of the year. They've been underdogs only three times in the first 98 — at Sacramento on Dec. 20 ( a 144-119 Boston win ), at Milwaukee on Jan. 11 ( a 135-102 Bucks win ) and at Milwaukee again on April 9 ( a 104-91 Bucks victory ).

Tatum watching

Florida Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk said he's rooting for the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals for an obvious reason — he went to school in St. Louis with Jayson Tatum.

And, as one might guess, Tatum is rooting for the Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final.

"I actually watched him win last night," Tatum said Tuesday, referring to Florida's 4-1 win over Edmonton that gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead in that title series. "Trying to learn and understand the rules in the game of hockey more and more. I got to watch the game last night. They won. Like I said, I'm extremely happy for him and his family. Hopefully they win it all."

Closing in

Boston enters Game 3 of the NBA Finals with 1,582 makes from 3-point range this season, including playoffs.

That means the Celtics are 15 3s away from breaking the NBA's full-season record. Boston connected on 1,596 shots from deep last season to set the mark.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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