Shortly after he entered the postgame interview room Wednesday night, guard Jalen Brunson described the mood in the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room as somber following a heartbreaking 107-104 loss in overtime to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We’re just disappointed with ourselves that we let one slip away,” said Brunson, who led the Mavs with 25 points and nine assists. “We had it in our hands and we gave it away.”
Austin Reaves, an undrafted rookie guard out of Oklahoma, made the biggest shot of his young NBA career as he drained a dramatic three-pointer with just 0.9 seconds remaining in overtime that won this game for the Lakers (16-13). The shot by Reaves capped a wild, wild night that saw one clutch goosebump three-pointer after another that kept finding its way through the nets.
“It wasn’t the last possession,” Brunson said. “It was more just the little things, the attention to detail that myself and us a team we’ve got to be a little better at. At the same time, you’ve got to give them credit.”
The Mavs (14-14), who play in Minnesota on Sunday, actually had a chance to end this game in regulation. Dallas was clinging to a precarious 93-90 lead, and following a missed three-pointer by LeBron James, Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber both had their hands on a rebound with about six seconds left that would have forced the Lakers into a situation to intentionally foul in order to extend the game.
However, somehow the ball squirted away and landed in the hands of Wayne Ellington, who calmly drilled a dramatic three-pointer in the left corner with two seconds that tied the score at 93 and sent it into overtime. Coach Jason Kidd said he was trying to get the officials’ attention and call timeout when he saw both Porzingis and Kleber were simultaneously fighting for possession of the ball.
“I should have gotten (the rebound),” Porzingis said. “I didn’t get it. I didn’t see it was (Kleber).
Before Reaves’ game-winner, Kleber banked in a three-pointer that knotted the game at 104 with 15.2 seconds remaining. And before Kleber’s clutch basket, Russell Westbrook drained a three-pointer from the corner that pushed the Lakers in front, 104-101, with 23.5 seconds to go.
Also, before the triple by Westbrook, Mavs guard Tim Hardaway Jr. drilled a three-pointer from the logo with the shot clock about to expire that deadlocked the game at 101-101 with 45.4 seconds left.
All of the exhilarating back-n-forth by the two teams had the fans at American
Airlines Center – which included Dallas Cowboys players Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup – begging for more.
“I think it was a fun game for the fans,” said Porzingis, who finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. “It would have been better if we got the win.
“But I think we got to take this game as a game to learn from and look at the mistakes down the stretch.”
Despite playing without injured point guard Luka Doncic – he missed his third game in a row with soreness in his left ankle – the Mavs went toe-to-toe with one of the teams many have pegged to capture this season’s NBA title.
The Mavs even rattled off 15 unanswered points early in the second quarter to overcome a 12-point deficit and take a 38-35 lead. But poor shooting – the Mavs shot just 39.8 percent from the field and also missed 32 of 44 shots from downtown – wound up costing the Mavs in the end.
“We just got to keep working, stay positive and take the shots,” Kidd said. “Everyone has worked extremely hard in their career as kids growing up. The fundamentals are there. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in.
“We had a lot of in-and-out shots tonight and we ended up making one to tie it. That’s just the nature of sports, that just the nature of basketball. It can be very unkind at times. It’s just going to test you.”
The Mavs were certainly tested by Reaves, who entered Wednesday’s game averaging 5.3 points and shooting 31.4 percent from three-point land and was relatively unknown to the causal basketball fan. But Reaves converted 5-of-6 baskets from behind the thee-point arc and just kept making big basket after big basket on a team that included superstars Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and James.
“I’ve seen him before,” Brunson said of Reaves. “I watched him a couple of times when he was in college.
“He’s a great player. He can score the ball, he’s fundamentally sound. He has game. You’ve got to respect him, and he was able to make shots.”
James made shots, too, as he finished with 24 points and five assists, Westbrook collected 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Davis added 20 points and 12 boards.
Besides Brunson and Porzingis, the Mavs got 20 points and nine rebounds from Hardaway, Trey Burke poured in 12 points, and Dorian Finney-Smith had 10points and nine rebounds.
The game was tied at 73 going into the fourth quarter, and then it started taking over the flavor of a playoff matchup. But after not securing things late in regulation, the Mavs just couldn’t overcome the two late three-points by Ellington and Reaves.
“Oh my God, we should have gotten this win,” an exasperated Porzingis said. “But it is what it is. We come back tomorrow, a new day, and keep working and keep staying together as a group.
“And even though we didn’t get the win today, we’re headed in the right direction, and that’s the most important thing.”