There is a group of people that would like to see the Spurs lose. I get it. San Antonio has gotten this far into the season now, why throw away the top odds at a potentially franchise altering player?
But I also believe in karma. With no certainty to the top overall pick, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to just completely throw in the towel with 10 games to go. Put out good effort and energy into the game, get good energy back. The “basketball gods,” as Zach Lowe calls them, are always watching. I’d like to think they were smiling upon the Silver and Black tonight.
No, the result was not what you want (well, for some it was,) but the process was joyous. Near the end of the 3rd quarter, it seemed like San Antonio might run away with their 3rd victory in four games. The bench was beating up on the depleted Mavericks. Blake Wesley was having the best game of his career, making plays for others and finding his shot in the mid range.
Then, Pop ran out a lineup of Wesley, Romeo Langford, Doug McDermott, Dominick Barlow and Gorgui Dieng. Not really the group you’d typically see when you are trying to stomp out a weak opponent. As expected, the Mavericks got back into the game behind some really strong paint play from Dwight Powell (12 of his 22 points came in the lane.) That’s when we saw the competitive spirit of a team that has struggled all season.
Sandro Mamukelashvili hit a clutch three-pointer to give the lead back to the Spurs late in the game, and man, how fun of a story has he been? Being let go of by perhaps the best team in the NBA in Milwaukee to playing clutch minutes for one of the worst, and making every second of his opportunity count. That’s the joy of a rebuilding season. After the Mavericks had two fruitful trips to the line, the Spurs had seemingly one chance to tie or win the game with 3 seconds left. Of course they got it to the best player on the court, Keldon Johnson.
After missing both free throws at the line, clear dejection spread across KJ’s face. Those are shots you have to make as a go-to option. But a gift was bestowed upon him from those aforementioned basketball gods, when the Mavs made the most bizarre inbound pass I have EVER seen. One lob later... elation.
So sure, the Silver and Black put up a big dud in overtime and lost anyways. But how the end of regulation transpired mattered. It mattered to Johnson, who has never stopped fighting this season, no matter the record, the opponent, or the teammates he’s playing with. It matters to the guys who stepped up tonight with other players dealing with injuries. It matters to the 19 and 20-something-year-olds on this roster trying to make a name for themselves in the NBA.
So yeah, I get not wanting to win too many games so the ping pong balls bounce the Spurs way this summer. But I’d also try to appreciate the effort these guys are giving in these “pointless” games. Maybe, just maybe... the universe will reward the positive energy.
- This was a really fun Blake Wesley game, stuffing the stat sheet with an 11 point, 6 rebound, 4 assist and 3 steal line. He has all of the physical tools to be a good player in this league. It seems like getting open isn’t Wesley’s problem, it’s finishing the actual shots. His burst allows him to get by defenders and find a way to the hoop, or create passing lanes for his teammates. In transition he can be a one man break. If he adds some strength to his frame, he could become a pretty interesting player. Oh, and he’s only 19!
- Speaking of 19-year-olds, Malaki Branham might be getting his rhythm back. The guard had 20 points on 8-12 shooting off of the bench. He kind of needs the ball in his hands at this point to make much of an impact. Without the offense running through him, he’s relegated to more of a spot-up role. He’s shooting 31% on catch and shoot 3s this season. It’s when he’s coming off of pick and rolls or handoffs and getting to the basket while utilizing his pull up jumper that he looks like a quality NBA scorer. They went with Graham over him in the starting 5 tonight, which is probably the correct choice. He’s more likely to see the shots that made him so successful in February coming off of the bench.
- The Spurs were sorely missing Zach Collins and Charles Bassey tonight. The Mavericks out rebounded them 42-31. With Bassey out for the season, someone is going to have to step up and claim back-up big minutes. Mamu has had high peaks as a scorer and passer, but his defense and rebounding are not exactly what you’d like to see from a big man. I thought Dominick Barlow had a pretty good game tonight, going +10 in 22 minutes of play. He’s making a lot of mistakes out there, fouling a little too much and not securing some loose balls, but his size and athleticism legitimately bothered the Mavericks at the rim tonight. It will be interesting to see who secures the backup big minutes in the last 10+ games of the season.