After last year's debacle, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic are developing a better storyline.

Dallas — Dallas Mavericks teammates Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic embraced in a pseudo-embrace, smiling exhausted. On Sunday, Irving and Doncic had combined for 85 points in a 22-point rally to win 147-136 overtime against Houston. Dante Exum's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation made it possible.  

Irving, who scored 48 points for the season, said he was “depleted” in an on-court interview two minutes later, but he and Doncic hope they're just getting started. The 14th win in 16 games took Dallas closer to a Western Conference playoff berth in the top six.  

With four games left, the Mavs are two games ahead of sixth and face 19-win Charlotte on Tuesday. Dallas has the tiebreaker over the following three standings teams. A year after the Irving trade resulted in a tanking, Irving and Doncic are about to make their playoff debut.  

Life is about redemption, especially in sports, where anyone can say anything and something could happen the following day, two weeks, or few months to lead to greatness, Irving added. He swiftly added, “Or failing at a high level. Covers superstars with 13 All-Star selections' season finishes  

Last year, injuries plagued Dallas for two months after trading two key players from the 2022 Western Conference finals to Brooklyn for Irving. With two games left, Jason Kidd said the Mavericks were tanking to preserve a draft selection from the disastrous Kristaps Porzingis trade four years earlier.  

The ploy worked, as Dallas added Duke center Dereck Lively II. The NBA fine was $750,000. Lively's knee injury may prevent him from playing in the playoffs, but Daniel Gafford's trade deadline acquisition provides Dallas a similar dunker and rim protector.  

The second February signing, P.J. Washington, seems to suit the roster better than after the Irving trade. The standings indicate that. “The chemistry is big,” Doncic added. “We are rolling.” Irving injured his thumb in the first half of the season, but Dallas is 22-7 in his 29 games since returning. A damaged heel kept him out for a while. Irving is on his longest streak since 2015-16.  

Doncic is two games from playing in 70 for the first time since his rookie season, and the Mavericks have won 10 straight with Irving and the NBA scoring leader. Irving played more than 42 minutes for the second time this season in Friday's 108-106 win against Golden State as Doncic sat with a sore knee.

Doncic played at least that long four times during Irving's six-game thumb injury layoff and rested once due to the workload. Irving scored 25 overtime and fourth-quarter points against the Rockets. 37-point scorer Doncic's 11th of 12 assists brought up Exum's tying 3. Plenty of reasons to celebrate the win.  

Irving claimed Luka says, ‘I’m weary, man,’ at the end of the game. “That was a moment for us brothers to embrace. We know how hard we worked to get here in the season.”The awkward and much criticized finish forced Kidd to answer tough questions after the Irving-Doncic link failed a year earlier.  

In their second-to-last game against Chicago, the Mavs surrendered a 13-point halftime lead when Doncic was pulled in the first minute of the second quarter. The conclusion and both final games were skipped by him and Irving.  

The first-round Dallas opponent and what Doncic needs to do to advance again in the playoffs will be the focus. Kidd is expected to coach him and Irving for at least one more year. Kidd: “This is always continuous in the sense of building.” It'll happen again this summer. Change is coming. We're constructing something, and Kai and Luka are talented. You need talent to win this league. We're doing that."  

stay turned for development