Luka Doncic dominated the game tonight for the Mavericks as the Spurs devoted extra defenders to him and barely slowed him down. He didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates, but he got just enough from the supporting cast to overcome a terrific team effort from the San Antonio Spurs led by Keldon Johnson’s 30 points, who led a furious comeback by the home team, where they had a couple of chances to take the lead in the final minute. The Spurs had a shot at sending the game to overtime as Tre Jones executed the missed free throw play perfectly with 2 seconds left, bouncing the ball off the front of the rim to himself, but missed a free throw that would have tied it up, leading to the Mavs winning 126-125 as Doncic duplicated the feat on the other end of the court, grabbing his own rebound to kill the final second of the game. It was a valiant effort from the Silver and Black and one of the most entertaining games of 2022, and also the last game of this calendar year.
Tre Jones used his speed to energize the Spurs offense, and a couple of three-point shots from Sochan and Keldon marked them to an early 16-7 lead, which unfortunately was quickly negated by a 9-0 run from the Mavs led by (who else) Luka Doncic. Doncic dominated the initial quarter, scoring 22 of the 32 Dallas points, but the balanced Spurs scored 30, keeping it within a basket.
The second quarter started with Doncic on the bench, and Doug McDermott and Jakob Poeltl took advantage to power the Silver and Black back into the game, while the Mavericks ran their offense through Christian Wood, who scored 9 or the Mavs first 15 points. A pair of Keldon Johnson triples and a power dunk staked the Spurs to a 5 point lead, but that wasn’t enough as Luka returned to the floor with 5 minutes left and once again took over, and the Mavs led 68-64 at the half, led by Doncic’s 30 points.
The Spurs tightened up their defense on Doncic to start the third with Sochan on top of Luka, which seemed to annoy the Slovenian, while Dinwiddie and Wood took up the slack and the Mavs stretched their lead to as much as 17. The Spurs played with more intensity, holding Luka to (just?) 12 points in the third, and trailed 93-103 with a quarter to play.
The Spurs started off the final quarter playing physical, which led to Zach Collins getting called for his fifth foul on a pick. The call was challenged by Coach Pop, unsuccessfully as it turns out, which led to Jakob Poeltl returning to the lineup. The Spurs turned up the physical defense, and began to cut into the lead, pulling within four with a little over half of the quarter to play. Nobody but Doncic could score for the Mavs, and the Spurs brought the lead down to a single point with a Tre Jones layup with a little over 4 minutes left. The Spurs fought a back-and-forth battle with Doncic as time ran out, and a defensive play by Luka, a late steal when the Spurs were set to take the lead, kept the Mavs ahead, and the Spurs still had one more shot to put the game to overtime, created by Tre Jones’ missing a free throw intentionally to get another couple of free throws. Unfortunately for fans of the Silver and Black, his final free throw bounced off the front rim, and the Mavericks survived with a one point win, 126-125.
- One things that people always look at the end of the year are New Year’s Resolutions. I can definitely improve my decision-making process, starting with not signing up for one of these on New Year’s Eve.
- It’s amazing how quickly Jeremy Sochan has progressed in his offensive game. He didn’t really have anything but opportunistic garbage baskets and put backs, but now the Spurs are running offense through him, and despite struggling with his shot, he’s done some damage, and if he can start hitting the open three-point shots with any consistency, watch out!
- Luka never seems in a hurry, but whoever defends him always seems to be in a frenzy. I think that’s a big reason he draws so many fouls. He’s literally playing a different speed than anyone else on the court.
- I like Stanley Johnson wearing a T-shirt under his jersey. I’m not sure why more players don’t to that. It definitely works for him. Speaking of Stanley, his defense on Doncic looked pretty good, keeping in front of him and not fouling, but Luka wasn’t even slowed down. Luka is so good, that good individual defense won’t slow him down. Opponents have to double team him, and he’s a good enough passer to hurt you when you do that.
- Jeremy started the second half sticking to Luka like glue. That seemed to annoy him a bit, but it didn’t slow the Mavs as they quickly went on 9-4 run to start the third quarter, with Dinwiddie and Wood picking up the scoring load.
- Zach Collins fouls out a lot, but I think he ends up getting a lot of close calls that go against him. Sometimes I wish they would let them play more.
- I’m not sure about how the Mavericks are constructed. They are built to be a playoff team, but with one player carrying all of the offensive load. Luka is amazing, but I doubt he can get them out of the second round in the west, where there are several teams with multiple superstars.
- Jakob has really improved his free throw shooting and he’s turned into a player that you can count on in the clutch to make them. He is developing into a really fine player, and it would be really sad if he got traded.
For the Mavericks fans’ perspective, please visit Mavs Money Ball. After tonight, the Spurs are headed to Brooklyn to play the red-hot Nets on January 2.
The Spurs are currently in 14th place the western conference, and still on course for a 14% chance at the top pick in the 2023 draft.
Good night, and Happy New Year everyone!