The Dallas Mavericks took Game 4 in grandstanding fashion, demolishing the Boston Celtics by 38 points as they looked to begin their attempt at mounting a historic 3-0 comeback in the NBA Finals. However, with the series shifting back to the road, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Mavs to send the series back to Dallas. Surely enough, the Mavericks fell flat on their faces with a performance not worthy of winning the Larry O'Brien trophy, losing by 18 points, 106-88, to see their championship hopes come to a complete end in Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals.

Finger-pointing is pointless at this point of the season. There is nothing for the Mavericks to do now but to process this defeat, wash away the stench that comes with coming so close of the ultimate goal yet finishing so far away, and come back better next year. All in all, nothing is wasted — this should be valuable experience for Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Mavs team as they look to do it again next year.

But a defeat of this magnitude hurts like no other. Scaling the mountain that is the Western Conference will be a thankless task especially as teams will look to reload and contend in an ever-stacked conference. The stars aligned for the Mavericks as they made it all the way to the NBA Finals, but now, they have no one but themselves to blame for coming up short without any guarantees at a shot of redeeming themselves in the grandest stage in the association.

Luka Doncic's three-point shot deserted him at the worst possible time

Luka Doncic is a three-level scorer unlike any other. He is a very talented ballhandler who could get to his spots at will regardless of who's defending him, and he's strong enough to chisel his way towards the basket against smaller defenders. Doncic has weaponized the stepback three to a degree not seen apart from James Harden and Stephen Curry.

The Mavericks, throughout the playoffs, have built their offensive attack on the talented shoulders of Doncic. But the Mavs' offense loses a bit of an edge if Doncic is firing blanks from beyond the arc, which he did not just in Game 5, but in Games 3 and 4 as well.

In Game 5, Doncic went 2-9 from beyond the arc, and those two makes came with the game safely in the Celtics' favor. Doncic has made a living off of his elite shot-making even on difficult attempts, but his three-point shot was non-existent during a game where any drop-off from him meant death to their championship hopes. He went 3-24 from deep in the final three games of the series, which is bad as it's going to get for a marksman as talented as Doncic is.

Doncic looked out of sorts when pulling up for his patented stepbacks and pull-ups. The Celtics deserve credit for making it difficult for him to get the separation and rhythm he usually does on these sorts of shots; on some occasions, they had the left-dribble stepback well-scouted, forcing Doncic right which makes it more difficult for right-handed players to shoot off the bounce. The Mavericks star even had his fair share of airballs that further deflated the team as they tried, and failed, to come back from a 26-point deficit.

The responsibility to deliver in big games falls on the shoulders of a team's best player. Doncic, to his credit, still found a way to put some points on the board even though he was throwing up bricks. He still scored 28 points on 12-25 shooting, and he still hauled in 12 boards and five assists. But beyond his three-point shooting woes, he was also having trouble with taking care of the basketball.

He turned the ball over seven times as he succumbed to the Celtics' pressure time and time again. The Celtics were not afraid to throw multiple bodies at Doncic due to their disrespect over the Mavericks' outside shooting, and it resulted in a few miscues on Doncic's part.

The standards are lofty whenever one is competing for a championship. Luka Doncic, as talented as he was, did not perform to the level that was required to win a tough Game 5 on the road.

Kyrie Irving was supposed to be a big-game player… what happened?

Kyrie Irving may not have the cleanest track record off the court, but on the court, he boasts a stellar resume as a big-time playoff performer who has delivered in the grandest stage in the past. In fact, Irving has only lost a closeout game once in his career, which is a testament to how he manages to show up when his team needs him the most.

But the 2024 NBA Finals haven't exactly gone according to plan for Irving. Irving's struggles in Games 1 and 2 made it difficult for the Mavericks to get into a nice rhythm in the series, and then in Game 5, the Celtics fans had the last laugh as the 32-year old guard put up 15 points on a woeful 5-16 shooting from the field as the Mavericks' championship dreams become but a product of one's imagination.

Celtics fans have had it out for Irving ever since he stomped on the center-court Lucky the Leprechaun logo in 2021. It's safe to say that Irving was not able to make those fans eat their words.

The Celtics guards made life very difficult for Irving. His airspace was crowded all throughout the night, he had difficulties finishing at the rim thanks to the defense of Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Derrick White, and he missed a lot of shots he would usually make had he played at his usual level.

This performance, suffice to say, does not quite stack up to how he performed in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers, on their way to a historic 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors, needed a miracle, and it was exactly what they got from Irving. Irving put on a show on the road, silencing the Oracle Arena crowd with a 41-point night as he and LeBron James combined for 82 points to score a 112-97 victory.

This was the level that was required of both Irving and Doncic to beat a historically-great Celtics team. Alas, not only was Doncic rather frigid from beyond the arc and careless with the basketball, Irving also seemed to wilt under pressure. That is a recipe for disaster for a Mavericks team that relies heavily on the two to create offense, especially when the team barely plays a ballhandler other than those two.

Mavericks were the paper, Celtics were the scissors

Game 4 looks very much like an anomaly; all of the Celtics' three defeats in the 2024 NBA playoffs have been blowouts, but they were all one-off moments of weakness that they bounced back from rather quickly.

For the first three games of the series, it was clear that the Celtics had the Mavericks' number. Their spacing is too good, Jayson Tatum's playmaking has been the best it has been, and the Mavs' point of attack defense was rather vulnerable whenever Doncic was put into the action. If you caught any of the first three games of the 2024 NBA Finals, Game 5 presented a similar story.

But there were also some inexcusable moments. The Celtics outrebounded the Mavericks by a total of 16, with Boston hauling in 15 offensive boards compared to Dallas' seven. That simply won't cut it for a team that purportedly has the size advantage on the interior.

Moreover, the Mavericks' shooting simply has not been up to par. They shot 31.6 percent from beyond the arc in the series, and that's with Tim Hardaway Jr. bumping those numbers up with a garbage-time special in Game 4. The lackluster shooting from Derrick Jones Jr. and PJ Washington (they combined for 9-34 from three for a bad 26.4 percent) doomed them. Who would have guessed that the Mavericks' best shooter in Game 5 would be Josh Green?

This was simply a series where it was clear that one team was much-better than the other, and Game 5 cemented that as an indisputable fact.