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Jalen Brunson stepped up at the perfect time against the Spurs

Relegated to bench duty most of the game, Brunson’s stability and savvy steadied the Mavericks Monday night.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

En route to a historic game, Luka Doncic put on a masterful third quarter where he scored or assisted on 29 of the Mavericks 34 points in the frame. Dallas put a bow on the quarter with a Justin Jackson buzzer beating three-point make, pushing the lead to 14 with only 12 minutes separating the Mavericks from the eighth win of the season.

With Doncic taking his usual reprieve after playing the entire third quarter, Rick Carlisle handed the keys to Jalen Brunson, placing the enormous responsibility of keeping the Spurs in check until his MVP candidate was ready to return.

In an almost ominous fashion, Rudy Gay kick started the Spurs excellent fourth quarter with a turnaround fade away over Justin Jackson right below the free throw line to cut the Maverick lead to 12. However, Brunson was quick to answer with a tough baseline jumper after creating separation from Patty Mills to start the Mavericks fourth quarter foray.

After the teams traded missed buckets, Jakob Poeltl flipped in a 10-foot set shot only to have Brunson retaliate on the other end, running off a Dwight Powell ball screen into a smooth jumper a few feet off the left elbow.

But the Mavericks’ offense sputtered in the ensuing few minutes with two turnovers and two missed threes bookended by Dejounte Murray and Poeltl buckets forcing Carlisle to call a timeout with a 10 point lead and 8:10 left to play. After an empty possession for either team, Dallas finally end the nearly 1:40 long drought with a – you guessed it – Brunson transition jumper on the elbow. The steady, second year guard pushed the pace off a Spur missed triple and freed himself of Murray’s rangy arms with a beautiful in-and-out crossover.

Like other games, Doncic’s periods of rest magnify the Mavericks’ need for additional creators, and the Spurs looked ready to control the final quarter as the sophomore superstar sat. But in the first 4:19 seconds of the fourth, Jalen Brunson scored all six of the Mavericks’ points, matching the Spurs collective output and giving Carlisle the luxury of inserting Doncic back in on his own terms.

With 6:35 remaining, Brunson subbed out in favor of Doncic. Dallas maintained a nine-point lead even though the only points generated outside of Brunson were on two Delon Wright free throws.

Brunson ended his night with 11 points, one rebound, one assist and one steal in 13 minutes of play on 5-of-9 shooting. Though his sophomore season has been marred with inconsistency, playing less than 20 minutes in eight of 13 games, Monday night he gave the Mavericks exactly what the team needed in his limited time on the floor.