Kyrie Irving’s record in closeout games: Timeline of Mavericks’ star’s playoff success in series-clinching wins

Long considered one of basketball’s grandest talents, Kyrie Irving also has a flair for the dramatic all his own.

The Mavericks guard has racked up countless accomplishments during his career — from All-Star Game appearances to an NBA title. Few hold the weight of one of his most impressive records, however: Irving has claimed victory in 14 of the 15 closeout games he has played in.

Irving isn’t the most prolific winner in league history, but unlike a great many of his adversaries, Irving is perfect when the lights have been at their brightest. He doesn’t shirk the spotlight, either. Whether in Cleveland, Boston, Brooklyn, or Dallas, Irving has tended to paint masterpieces when postseason advancement is on the line.

How do we explain such a phenomenon? Is Irving simply the greatest clutch player of his (or any) generation, or is he the beneficiary of uber-talented teammates, advantageous matchups, and dumb luck?

The Sporting News takes you through Irving’s highlights — and lowlights — as he looks to extend his record mark in this season’s playoffs.

Kyrie Irving’s record in closeout games

Irving is 14-1 in closeout games. Among players to play at least 10 closeout games in their career, Irving has the best winning percentage in such matchups in league history, per Statmuse.

Irving stands in pretty exclusive company among the list of closeout game connoisseurs. Unlike other leading names on the list like Jordan Farmar, Tristan Thompson, and Shandon Anderson, Irving is a ball-dominant guard who can at least dovetail as a No. 1 on a contending team. That’s a far cry from the carousel of role players who can mount a claim as one of the winningest players in closeout contests.

Here’s a look at the players with the highest winning percentage in closeout games (assuming they’ve played at least 10 closeout games in their career):

Player Winning % Record
Kyrie Irving 93.3 14-1
Jordan Farmar 90.9 10-1
Tristan Thompson 88.2 15-2
JR Smith 85.7 18-3
Iman Shumpert 84.6 11-2
Shawn Marion 84.6 11-2
Shandon Anderson 84.6 11-2
Norris Cole 81.8 9-2
Marcin Gortat 81.8 9-2
Will Perdue 81.0 17-4
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A few things stick out from such a list. For starters, four of the five winningest closeout game players in league history are bonded by one man: LeBron James. Although Irving is a star in his own right, he certainly benefitted from James’ greatness, particularly in big games.

Nevertheless, outside of Shawn Marion, none of the top 10 were All-Star caliber players. None except Irving, that is.

Kyrie Irving closeout game stats

Score Game & Round Date Mins Pts Asts Rebs
Cavaliers 101, Celtics 93 Game 4, Round 1 4-26-2015 43:17 24 3 11
Cavaliers 94, Bulls 73 Game 6, Round 2 5-14-2015 12:10 6 0 1
Cavaliers 118, Hawks 88 Game 4, ECF 5-26-2015 21:58 16 5 4
Cavaliers 100, Pistons 98 Game 4, Round 1 4-24-2016 40:25 31 5 3
Cavaliers 100, Hawks 99 Game 4, Round 1 5-8-2016 42:20 21 8 2
Cavaliers 113, Raptors 87 Game 6, ECF 5-27-2016 39:53 30 9 4
Cavaliers 93, Warriors 89 Game 7, Finals 6-19-2016 43:00 26 1 6
Cavaliers 106, Pacers 102 Game 4, Round 1 4-23-2017 36:41 28 0 2
Cavaliers 109, Raptors 102 Game 4, Round 2 5-7-2017 40:22 27 9 5
Cavaliers 135, Celtics 102 Game 5, ECF 5-25-2017 31:37 24 7 2
Celtics 110, Pacers 106 Game 4, Round 1 4-21-2019 37:07 14 7 2
Nets 123, Celtics 109 Game 5, Round 1 6-1-2021 37:55 25 3 3
Mavericks 114, Clippers 101 Game 6, Round 1 5-3-2024 42:18 30 4 6
Mavericks 117, Thunder 116 Game 6, Round 2 5-18-2024 42:22 22 3 2
Timberwolves 105, Mavericks 100 Game 4, WCF 5-28-2024 41:59 16 4 2

Irving is averaging 22.7points, 4.5 assists, and 3.7 rebounds in closeout matchups, which is in line with his career postseason averages of 23.1 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. 

Kyrie Irving closeout game highlights

Cavaliers vs. Pistons (Eastern Conference first round, Game 4, 2016)

Irving had already tasted postseason success by the time 2016 rolled around, having raced to the NBA Finals the year prior with the Cavaliers. He wasn’t able to participate as vigorously, however; injuries limited his participation in the final two rounds of the postseason.

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He started his 2016 playoffs run with a flourish, finishing off the Pistons with a 31-point, five-assist display. Cleveland needed every one of those baskets, too, as the Cavaliers only won that matchup by two points.

Cavaliers vs. Raptors (Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6, 2016)

Irving continued his strong play in the Eastern Conference Finals. He saved his best showcase for last, pouring down 30 points, nine assists, and four rebounds as the Cavs blitzed a formidable Raptors squad to punch their second-straight ticket to the NBA Finals.

Cavaliers vs. Warriors (NBA Finals, Game 7, 2016)

When discussing Irving’s postseason resume, this moment sticks out. You know the story by now: clock winding down, Irving sizing up his marker — reigning MVP Stephen Curry. A pace here, a shimmy there, and Irving was free, launching a step-back jumper over Curry’s outstretched grasp. With a flick of his wrist, Irving had given Cleveland the lead. It wouldn’t relinquish its advantage, giving the ‘Land its first sports title since the Johnson Administration.

“I don’t know how close I was to him. I tried to reach at the ball, stay in front of him, make it a tough shot,” Curry said postgame, per USA Today. “It was a tough step-back that he just stepped up and made. It doesn’t matter how good or bad defense I played, he made the shot. So, credit to him. He stepped up and took advantage of the moment. It was not a good feeling turning around and seeing it go in.”

Nets vs. Celtics (Eastern Conference first round, Game 5, 2021)

The Brooklyn years were a real struggle for both Irving and the Nets alike. However, there were brief flashes of brilliance, including a 25-point explosion in Brooklyn’s blowout Game 5 win over the Celtics.

The victory was made all the sweeter by the fact that Irving had endured a forgettable spell with the Celtics in the prior two seasons.

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Mavericks vs. Clippers (Western Conference first round, Game 6, 2024)

Irving’s latest closeout trick revolved around a standout showing against the Clippers. He spearheaded Dallas’ win over Los Angeles, recording 30 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 57.9 percent shooting. It was a much-needed display, all things considered. Although teammate and fellow superstar Luka Doncic impressed with his play-making, he was fairly inefficient in his production.

With Irving taking the lead, that was no bother, however.

“Never a doubt with Kai,” Doncic said postgame, per ESPN.

Mavericks vs. Timberwolves (Western Conference Finals, Game 4, 2024)

With the Mavericks on the brink of a third-ever appearance in the NBA Finals, Irving had a game to forget. He struggled to find a rhythm amid rampant pressure from the likes of Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, and Jaden McDaniels. Such struggles bore out in his final stat line, too. Irving hit just six of his 18 shot attempts as Dallas fell just short of the Western Conference Finals sweep, falling to Minnesota, 105-100.

With the defeat, Irving ended his winning run in closeout games. He’ll look to turn things around as the Mavs pick up the pieces and attempt to complete the gentlemen’s sweep over the T-Wolves on Thursday.

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