DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks came within a millisecond of winning three consecutive games for the first time in nearly four months.
However, Jalen Brunson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer misfired and the Minnesota Timberwolves were able to walk off the American Airlines Center court with a pulsating 110-108 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,576.
Andrew Wiggins gave the Timberwolves a two-point lead with 19 seconds remaining when he drove and scored near the basket. The Mavs immediately called a timeout to set up a final play.
When the action resumed, Luka Doncic made such a spectacular move while dribbling the ball that his defender – Josh Okogie – fell to the floor about five feet away. That left Doncic wide-open for a step-back 3-pointer, yet he passed it to a wide-open Brunson with 1.1 seconds left.
Doncic said the pass to Brunson was the right basketball play to make at that time.
“He was open,” Doncic said. “I would do it again, always. It was a great shot and everybody trusted in him.
“It didn’t go in, but next time it’ll go in, for sure.”
Even if Brunson had made the 3-pointer, coach Rick Carlisle said he couldn’t tell from replay if it would have counted, because he didn’t know if the rookie from Villanova released the shot before the final buzzer sounded.
“I can’t tell from our internal replay,” Carlisle said. “It looks like it would have counted had it gone it, but I don’t know. I’ll have to talk to somebody at the replay office with super slow-mo.
“But the play was to get Luka the ball and have him make a play at the end. He had great space, a guy (Tyus Jones) ran at him and he passed it and it turned into a split-second play.”
Doncic said there was no consideration on his part about taking the last shot after Okogie fell to the floor.
“He was open, Jalen was open, so I think it was a great play,” Doncic said. “Like I said, I would do it over again.
“I trusted him, the whole team trusted him. Your shot sometimes is not going to go in. Not always he’s going to make it, but I thought he would make it.”
The Mavs (31-47) were down 91-79 at the outset of the fourth quarter, but five points from Brunson, a pair of nasty dunks from Salah Mejri and a step-back 3-pointer by Doncic helped Dallas forge ahead, 104-101, with 2:44 remaining.
“Salah had a lot to do with it,” Carlisle said. “He was real active again making things happen at both ends.
“He took a couple of charges and had a couple of dunks. Look, we’re at home, we’re going to make a run. But it’s a back-n-forth NBA game in crunch time. It’s exciting stuff.”
Minnesota led, 32-27, after the first quarter, but the Mavs fought back and tied things up at 58-all at the half. From there the T-Wolves rushed out to a 89-79 lead after the third quarter before the Mavs put on their rally caps and narrowly missed out on running their record to 2-0 on this three-game home stand.
“We definitely did a lot of stuff wrong, we had trouble making shots,” Maxi Kleber. “We kept fighting and supporting each other and then we made a run.
“You’re not going to play a perfect game for 48 minutes. You just got to stay mentally in it and just keep going.”
Wiggins tallied five of his 19 points down the stretch, and Karl-Anthony Towns added four of his 28 points – also down the stretch — as the Mavs had difficulties keeping that duo off the blocks.
Doncic led the Mavs with 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, Dwight Powell contributed 25 points and eight rebounds, Trey Burke had 12 points and four assists in 16 minutes, and Merji battled four difficulties to score 11 pint and grab five boards.
Still, the Mavs believe this is one game they could gave gotten in the ‘W’ column.
“You know, NBA games hinge on very small margins,” Carlisle said. “There’s probably many other things we could have done to avoid that situation, but we got pretty much what we wanted, so there you go.”
NOTES: Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons, who is the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, said Mavs point guard Luka Doncic should win this year’s Rookie of the Year award, with Atlanta’s Trey Young coming in second place. “He’s playing better,” Simmons said of Doncic. “His team is winning more games. Trey Young is killing it. Trey Young is the same as (Utah’s) Donovan (Mitchell). But overall I think Luka’s got the team and it’s playing a little better.” Mitchell finished second to Simmons in last year’s Rookie of the Year race. Meanwhile, Doncic appreciates Simmons coming to his defense. “But I would say it’s too much talking about it and just a lot of media (talking) about it,” Doncic said. “I just don’t even want to talk about it. Everybody’s trying to talk about it, and I just want to focus on the next game.”. . Coach Rick Carlisle said he thinks Doncic has benefitted handsomely from having Dirk Nowitzki as a teammate. “You’ve got to remember, though, Dirk missed the first 26 games,” Carlisle said. “Dirk wasn’t in training camp, and that would have been even more impactful had he been on the floor. Just the consistency of how he approaches everything sets an amazing tone for any group of young guys.”. .Dorian Finney-Smith sat out Wednesday’s game after he required eight stitches to close a gash in his lip that occurred during Monday’s game against Philadelphia. So how long will he be sidelined? “I wouldn’t think it’s going to be long, but he got eight stitches and it’s very swollen,” Carlisle said. “I’m hoping he’s keeping ice on it because it’s really a tough thing. But I hope he doesn’t miss more than (Wednesday’s game against Minnesota).” This was the first game Finney-Smith has missed this season. Before Wednesday, he was the only member of the Mavs who had played in all 77 of the team’s games this season. . .Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders remembers the fierce battles between Dirk Nowitzki and Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett back in the early 2000’s. “I was a kid, obviously, but how they used to battle, it was something of extreme mutual respect between those two,” Saunders said. “And it was because they both understood how the other one approached the game, how the other one prepared for guarding that guy. They were also all about the team. But it wasn’t a one-on-one matchup, because they were great teammates getting their teammates involved too.”. . Carlisle was asked before the game what he envisions from Kristaps Porzingis on the defensive end of the court next season. “I don’t think it would be wise to put forth any definite at this moment,” he said. “I do believe he’ll be able to guard (power forwards) and (centers). depending on who the guy is next to him. I expect him to be a (power forward) on offense, though. With his skill set and the way he moves on the floor, I believe he’s going to be a good passer. He’ll be a (power forward) on offense most of the time.”