LOS ANGELES – On an early possession, Kyrie Irving froze a defender in his tracks with a jab step and ultra-fast change of direction, ushering in a new era of Mavericks’ basketball.

By the end of the night, it was clear his new teammates are ready to follow along.

With Irving pouring 24 points and getting loads of help from just about everybody that stepped on the court, the Mavericks took a strong 110-104 win over the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

It was an unqualified success for Irving’s debut with his new team. The Monday trade that delivered the superstar guard paid immediate dividends in the form of a seemingly instantaneous bond with his new teammates.

And it seemed all natural to Irving, and everybody else, for that matter.

“Selfless basketball out there, playing the right way,” Irving said. “I was telling the guys in the locker room I liked the way we didn’t panic in those last four minutes. We stayed poised. They made their runs, but we made everything tough.”

And Irving’s confidence in himself, but also hs teammates made this a very special night as Luka Dončić was on the bench cheering on his team as he missed his third game with a heel contusion.

“We were going to make mistakes, so the first game I just wanted to make sure and my teammates and the coaching staff wanted to make sure that we didn’t feel any pressure,” Irving said. “And I think the most important thing we stressed as a team was don’t force the ball to me. We just want to play natural basketball. You don’t always have to come to me.”

The ball movement was exquisite all night as the Mavericks racked up 26 assists and owned the lead throughout.

“They’re just getting used to playing with me and seeing how many open shots I can create for them and the double teams that are coming,” Irving said. “Our rotations are getting better and I’m sure when No. 77 gets back, it’ll be even more enjoyable.”

That would be Dončić, who could return Friday at Sacramento.

And the perseverance and sense of calm the Mavericks showed late was impressive. They were only up 98-95 until Dwight Powell made a twisting layup in traffic with 3 minutes to play. Tim Hardaway Jr. would hit a jumper and then Irving scored the next four points as the Mavericks went up 106-97.

All five Maverick starters scored in double figures and the team seemed to rally behind Dončić’s new All-Star sidekick.

The Mavericks improved to 30-26 and 2-1 on this long trip that ends over the weekend with two games against the Kings.

The Clippers, who were coming off a 12-day trip on which they went 4-2, dropped to 30-26 and it appeared to everybody that these teams could see each other again, even though the regular-season series is over with both teams winning twice.

The Mavericks hit 17-of-35 three-pointers, which certainly helped their cause. Reggie Bullock (18 points) and Hardaway (19 points) were particularly strong from long range.

It was Bullock who had five three-pointers in the first quarter when the Mavericks went up 41-23.

“I think his leadership down the stretch of getting everyone organized, knowing how to play without having the ball, or being able to have to score, setting scoring up for his teammates to get shots, was shown tonight,” coach Jason Kidd said of Irving. “A lot of great stuff as we build on this new journey with him. It’s going to be fun.

“Now, will we make shots like we did tonight always? No, but this is a really good team, when you talk about the Clippers. We’ve had trouble scoring 100 points against them. And to be able to score tonight, (we) were able to get off to a really good start in that first quarter.”

And the Mavericks continue to get help from some under-appreciated resources, like Theo Pinson. He had nine points and four assists in 15 minutes. His time in Brooklyn with Irving a couple years ago obviously didn’t hurt.

And all the production added up to a win against a hot opponent on the road.

“It’s big,” Pinson said of the win over the Clippers. “I’m pretty sure everybody thought we weren’t going to win and we took the challenge. I know we added Kyrie, but we didn’t have much chemistry. We just wanted to come out and have fun and when you bring on a talent like that onto the team and is selfless, not like ‘give me the ball, give me the ball.’ That helps us.

“He’s like, yo, go, I want you to do what you do. I know that because I played with him a little in Brooklyn. I told those guys there’s going to be a lot of times he’s going to look at you like: go make a play. They’re denying me. Make a play.”

And so, the Mavericks did. And while Irving led them at times, they led him occasionally, too.

“Leadership is something we’ve talked about,” Kidd said. “He’s new, but he’s a vet. These guys all look up to him. So his voice is important. And they trust him. As much as we’ve talked about being connected, this will be the start of it.”

The message was well-received by Irving’s new teammates.

“Coach didn’t want us trying to find him,” said Hardaway, who had 19 points. “He said go and hoop. And he’ll find a way to create for others and create for himself. We’ll see when both guys are out there. But just a lot of fun and running and gunning.

“You’re playing with a veteran superstar who has a ring, who has been in big moments throughout his career. You got to relish the moment and take advantage of the opportunity. It was fun out there.”

And it should be even more fun when Luka joins the party.

Twitter: @ESefko


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