It wasn’t the fun, exciting, offensive masterpiece the Spurs put on the night before against the Magic. In fact, their OT loss to the Dallas Mavericks was an ugly overall game for both teams, with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving out for the Mavs and Zach Collins, Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan sitting for the Spurs. However, sometimes beauty can be found in the least expected places.
While it wasn’t a pretty game, it was an emotional one with plenty of fringe Spurs looking to make a case for both the rest of the season and beyond, and Dallas in desperate need of the win as they linger in the middle of the Wild Wild Western Conference, where they could still plausibly finish as high as 4th but also as low as 13th. This was a game they couldn’t afford to lose, and as a result, what was mostly just an ugly game between two shorthanded teams for three-and-a-half quarters turned into absolute chaos in the final moments.
After the Spurs got their fourth quarter lead as high nine with 4:31 left, as Mavs fought all the way back to take a three-point lead with 45 seconds left mostly thanks to a non-stop march to the free throw line. After a couple of empty possessions, the Spurs got a steal, and Tre Jones broke away for the layup with 5 sec left to get them back within a point. There was debate about if he should have pulled it back out for a three, but it turned out to be a moot point, because Jaden Hardy made one of two free throws, chaos ensued:
What a roller coaster ride that was. To recap, Keldon Johnson was fouled on the game-tying attempt but missed the first free throw (which was a problem for the Spurs all night) before completely botching the attempted miss on the second and committing a lane violation with 1.8 left. It seemed like the game was over since all Dallas had to do was inbound the ball, but Maxi Kleber made about the worst possible decision by throwing it out of bounds at the other end of the court, and because no one touched it, the clock never started, and it was Spurs ball back on their side.
That’s when Pop drew up a beautiful misdirection play to get KJ open for alley-oop off a perfect inbound pass from Malaki Branham. It was redemption for Keldon, and considering both clutch play and inbounding in tight situations has been a problem for the Spurs for a few seasons now, it felt good to see a big play go right.
Of course, they proceeded to do what they’ve done in each of their other three OT games this season, which is completely flame out after using all their energy to force it while the other team goes off, and of course it didn’t help that the Spurs were shorthanded and on a SEGABABA, but all’s well that ends well. The Spurs got some much needed experience and confidence in the clutch but also got the loss to remain where they want to be in the standings. Mission accomplished.