So much for the Dallas Mavericks making NBA history. Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving and company were thoroughly out-classed by the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, their dream postseason run coming to an end with a 106-88 beatdown at TD Garden.

Dallas' hopes of a long-shot comeback against Boston with a title on the line were burnished on Friday, when the Mavericks absolutely blitzed the Celtics to stave off elimination in the third-largest Finals blowout of all-time. Could Jason Kidd's team really do the impossible, becoming the first team ever to climb out of an 0-3 hole in the playoffs?

The Mavs seemed to really believe they had a puncher's chance, and Game 4 provided the blueprint and momentum they needed to do it. In the end, though, Boston was just the better team—in no small part because Irving was nowhere near his best when Dallas needed him most.

As Finals MVP Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and company celebrated on the parquet, Irving quickly took to Twitter, stressing the need to see the bigger picture amid the Mavericks' disappointment.

“Tribe, stay together no matter what. Through the ups and downs, wins and losses, success and failure. Keep your head up high. This mission is bigger than us. I love you all! Hélà🤞🏾🪶♾❤️”

Kyrie Irving's disappointing NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) controls the ball against Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) and center Al Horford (42) in the second quarter during game five of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Irving never found his footing on Monday night, scoring 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting while adding nine assists. His Game 5 labors were strikingly similar to those he endured throughout the series, unable to consistently create separation off the bounce on Boston's army of quality defenders while bricking even open jumpers from the perimeter.

Maybe the biggest reason most believed the underdog Mavs had at least a puncher's chance to take down the Celtics was the ability of Doncic and Irving to score one-on-one against Boston's peerless defense at the point of attack. Doncic mostly lived up to that expectation, regularly getting to his spots in the mid-range and finding his way to the rim on every defender thrown at him with the notable exception of Brown.

Irving, by contrast, basically wore handcuffs in the Finals, failing more often than not to produce good looks when calling his own number one-on-one. The result? One of the worst series of Irving's storied playoff career. He averaged 19.8 points per game on exactly as many field goal attempts versus Boston, shooting 41.8% overall and 27.6% from beyond the arc. The defensive teeth Irving had shown previously in the postseason were largely absent, too.

Obviously, Dallas expected more from Irving against the Celtics, and needed it just to compete with the team that was basketball's best from start to finish of 2023-24. The lopsided nature of this series is hardly surprising given his underwhelming performance. The question now is whether his issues will persist should the Mavericks play deep into the postseason again going forward.

Irving will be 33 this time next year. It was truly jarring how often he was forced into contested, off-balance jumpers and difficult finishes in traffic against Boston, his dizzying ball-handling exploits frequently leading nowhere when guarded by the likes of Jrue Holiday, Brown and Derrick White. Even Sam Hauser gave Irving trouble in isolation at times.

The otherworldly skill that's made Irving a longtime favorite of hoopers across the globe isn't going anywhere. His inability to knock down pull-up and catch-and-shoot threes in the Finals was an aberration. Still, there's no denying the 13-year veteran is past his physical prime, only poised to lose more small degrees or half steps of agility and acceleration from here. Would we really expect Irving to fare much better, for instance, in a Finals rematch next June?

Fortunately for Dallas, there's only one team in basketball with Boston's depth of defensive talent and versatility. On the other hand, the Celtics' first title since 2008 could very well mark just the beginning of a lengthy stint alone at the top of the league.