When the schedule for this season originally came out, many probably saw this as a game in which the Spurs would get owned. Knowing they would likely be jockeying for lottery position by this point and presuming the Dallas Mavericks would be playing for postseason seeding, there was no reason not to see the season finale as a scheduled loss.
Instead, the disappointing Mavs entered freshly in tank mode to try and preserve what slim change they have of maintaining their first-round pick, sitting even more players than the Spurs, and the blowout may as well have been on before the game began.
Unsurprisingly, despite making only nine players available, the Spurs looked like the more interested team despite being on the second
night afternoon of a back-to-back. They played team basketball on offense in the eerie silence of the American Airlines Arena while the Mavs just jacked up threes in a series of one-and-dones. By the first timeout, the Spurs were up 20-7 and never looked back for the remainder of the quarter. They just kept adding on to the lead, and Blake Wesley capped it off with a midcourt three at the buzzer to make the score an astonishing 42-14, with a 28-point lead after just one quarter of play being a new franchise record.
Then, in the second quarter, the roles were reversed. Former Spur Davis Bertans helped wake up the Mavs offense with a couple of early threes and later scored 11 straight as they ate away at what had earlier seemed like an insurmountable lead. Jaden Hardy also got in on the act, and the two of them combined for 38 of the Mavs’ 45 points in the quarter (which also happened to be all of those two’s points in the first half as a whole) as they cut what had been a 31-point Spurs lead down to 12 at halftime, 71-59.
The first half of the third quarter felt more like a normal basketball game than any other part of the game, with more balance between the two teams as they just traded buckets while the Spurs kept the lead around 10. But soon, the blowout was back on as the Spurs used a 10-0 run to get the lead back to 21 and took a 108-91 lead into the fourth quarter. After such a hot second quarter, Bertans and Hardy were conspicuously absent the rest of the way (likely for obvious reasons), and the Spurs cruised through the fourth quarter to close the season with a 138-117 win over their IH-35 rivals and avoid the series sweep.
- Four Spurs had double-doubles, including 23 points and 11 rebounds for Sandro Mamukelashvili, 16-10 for Julian Champagnie, and 13-10 for Gorgui Dieng. The other was 21-19 for Dominick Barlow, who came one rebound away from being the youngest player ever to post a 20-20 game. The only other teenager to do it was Dwight Howard in 2005, so imagine a two-way player breaking his record. Hilariously, Mamu couldn’t decide whether to take one last shot to give Barlow a chance at the record or dribble the ball out before the final buzzer. After many hesitations, he finally jacked one up, but Dallas grabbed the rebound, with everyone giving Mamu a “you blew it” look (in a joking manner, of course). It was still a great close to the season for those two and Champagnie, and even if it's not with the Spurs (hopefully it is), they should all have serious shots at guaranteed contracts next season.
- With the win, the Spurs end the season tied with the Houston Rockets for the 29th worst record in the NBA at 22-60. As a result, the two teams will have the same number of ping pong balls in the lottery drawing, and after it’s over, if neither team is in the top 4, another drawing will happen to see who picks first.
- Be grateful, Spurs fans. Was this season fun? No, but the Spurs made it abundantly clear they were rebuilding from the outset, so fans were ready for what was in store. The Mavs? They were coming in fresh off a Western Conference Finals appearance and ready to take the next step, but they just never got going, and more questionable Mark Cuban decisions such as trading all assets for what may be a Kyrie Irving rental hasn’t helped. Finally, in the second-to-last game of the season, with a chance to still make the play-in, they decided to enter tank mode (which fans were unaware of entering the game) and improve the chance of keeping their top-10 protected pick. Now, they’re under investigation by the league, Irving will test free agency, and rumors are swirling that Luka Doncic will ask to be traded.
- It’s not relevant to this game, but I hereby rescind what I said in yesterday’s Final Score that the Timberwolves seem to have solved some of their chemistry issues. No, they have not. (Gobert was sent home, and Minny ended up winning the game, but still, not a good sign.)
Oh my Rudy Gobert just threw a punch at his own teammate Kyle Anderson pic.twitter.com/6GP5wwkCqW— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) April 9, 2023
Play of Game
There were plenty of highlight real plays in this one, but we’ll give it to Wesely for his buzzer-beater three at the end of first quarter, which helped set that aforementioned franchise record for the lead after one quarter. He wasn’t the most standout performer these last few games, but he was quietly very good, including tonight with 10 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds today. He needed a confidence boost heading into the offseason, and he got one.
BUZZER BLAKE pic.twitter.com/xiGnsqTeyw— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 9, 2023
And with that, we mark the end of the 2022-23 season. It was the most trying season for Spurs fans since 1996-97, but if the ping pong balls bounce the right way like they did back then, it will have all been worth it.
We at Pounding the Rock want to thank everyone for your continued support even during a trying season when there wasn’t much happiness to watch or read about. We wouldn’t still be here without you. Like always, Spurs coverage will continue here all offseason, from the draft lottery to the draft itself, free agency, summer league, another Hall of Fame ceremony, and on into next season, so be sure to stick around.