With seven seconds remaining in regulation up 110-107, the Dallas Mavericks only needed to prevent the Utah Jazz from hitting a 3-point shot. They couldn't. Rodney Hood nailed a very difficult 3-point attempt from the corner, the Mavericks missed a buzzer-beating attempt, the game went into overtime and Gordon Hayward eventually won it on a stepback jumper over Zaza Pachulia.
Hood's attempt from the corner was contested as well as it could have been, but whether he even should have been given that chance is a valid question.
"It's an easy question after the fact," said Rick Carlisle, asked why he didn't tell his team to foul the Jazz and have them shoot two free throws, eliminating any chance of a tying three. "We just decided not to. We decided to switch it and make them make as difficult a shot as possible. They did. Give them credit. They made very difficult shots all night long, and they deserve credit for it."
It's not a complete philosophical distaste for the strategy -- Carlisle has used it before.
"We've done it at times," he said. "It has risk. We didn't do it and so the game went to overtime."
Clearly, in retrospect, they should have. Utah inbounded the ball to Trey Lyles just inside the 3-point line, who held the ball with his back to the basket for several seconds before pitching it to Hood for the game-tying shot. Carlisle had instructed his team not to foul, but Chandler Parsons was in the perfect situation to do so. Lyles is a 61-percent free throw shooter, so there's a good chance he misses one or both. The Jazz didn't have timeouts, so they would have been inbounding from the opposite basket without a chance to advance the ball. The biggest danger comes from the Mavericks' own inbounds pass, but Dallas is a veteran team and very turnover adverse, playing a Jazz team that is league average in steals per game. Even if Lyles hits both and if the Maverick at the other end misses one, Utah still only gets three seconds at the most for a full-court inbounds play and last-second heave.
There's danger, for sure. But in that situation, it sure seemed to outweigh the risk.
"At this point, we have to look at every option," said Nowitzki, asked about whether the team should have. "It happened a few times before this game. Maybe we could push up a shooter and make him drive. We can't always keep giving up 3s up three. We've got to protect the line."
There's other areas you can point to, though. The Mavericks were initially up 106-103 with 20 seconds left and Utah went for quick twos. Gordon Hayward scored a layup in four seconds and, after two made Dallas free throws, made another in seven. In overtime, with 24 seconds left, Parsons missed a wide-open left corner 3-pointer that would have given Dallas a three-point lead and at the very least forced double overtime. Dallas blew a 15-point lead built in the second quarter, leading the entirety of the second half before a Hayward jumper tied it with 6:28 to play.
Dallas, who has played the most games in the NBA this season, has been desperate for this break. But they had, of course, hoped to go into with a win. That would have given Dallas a 30-25 record headed into the season's second half. Instead, they take the loss in a game that was winnable in every other way.
"Tough way to lose," Dirk Nowitzki said. "We had our chances."
On the nine-day break, at least one Maverick will be thinking about this loss.
"Knowing me, probably a lot," Matthew said. "We cannot let that one slip and we did so we've got to let this one eat at us, got to let it haunt us a little bit and we've got to come back with the whole mind frame of winning and nothing but winning by any means."