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Entering a pivotal Game 3, Kyrie Irving still hasn't shown up for the Mavericks

Entering these NBA Finals, and after seeing the Dallas Mavericks rampage through the Western Conference playoffs, the Boston Celtics made a bet. Instead of trying to take the ball out of the hands of the Mavs' two dynamic playmakers, they'd force it into them. 

The basis of the bet was a simple one. For one, the Celtics believed the Mavs were more dangerous when the entire team was thriving, as opposed to just Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. They also believed that their core group boasted enough strong defenders that the Celtics could both execute this make-Dončić-and-Irving-score strategy and keep Dončić and Irving from catching fire and winning multiple games by themselves. 

"Just trying to wear on those guys, be as physical as we possibly can, full team effort," Celtics wing Jaylen Brown told reporters Sunday night. "Just keep touching them. That's it."

So far, that bet has paid off. The Mavs entered the finals sporting a 115.2 offensive rating, an elite rate. In the series' first two games, that mark has plummeted down to 100, with the Celtics — following their 105-98 Sunday night victory, their eighth in a row — now in possession of a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is Wednesday night in Dallas.

There are many reasons behind the Celtics' hot start. Jaylen Brown (21 points, seven assists, three blocks) is playing some of the best basketball of his life. Kristaps Porzingis has repeatedly pummeled the Mavericks in the mid-post and walled off the rim. Jayson Tatum has been relentless knifing his way into the paint. But somewhere high up on that list is that Irving thus far has failed to punish the Celtics for guarding him one-on-one.

Irving finished Game 2 with 16 points and six assists. It wasn't a terrible performance, but it