Kyrie Irving says the stakes are raised for Game 3 of the NBA Finals: “It starts with me.”


DALLAS — 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 … 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.”

Luka Doncic’s message is simple for the struggling 3-point shooters around him.

“Just one thing: Keep shooting,” the Mavericks superstar said. “We all believe in those shots. That’s how we came to the Finals. That’s how we played the whole season. We believe in those guys.”

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 ).

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.