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3 observations after the Dallas Mavericks escape the San Antonio Spurs, 109-108

A win is a win, but that was stressful

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks held on to win a nailbiter in San Antonio, defeating the Spurs 109-108. Jalen Brunson was the man of the hour for Dallas, pouring in 31 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Dejounte Murray scored a team high 23 points in defeat for the Spurs.

With Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber missing time again, the Mavericks opened up with the same small-ball line up that faced the Heat Tuesday night. Luka Doncic looked aggressive early, taking the ball to the basket with purpose both to score and pass. He found Dwight Powell for two early alley-oop dunks over Drew Eubanks. The Mavericks looked poised to run away with things after a Luka Doncic steal and fast break lay up made the score 14-8, but the Spurs weren’t ready to go away. Each team realized there wasn’t any real rim protection and San Antonio attacked the rim relentlessly. Despite numerous attempts to extend the lead, the Mavericks saw the Spurs slowly chip away at the Dallas lead only to tie the game at 28 after twelve minutes of action.

With Luka Doncic resting on the bench, the Mavericks went on a 17-4 to open the quarter on the back of Tim Hardaway Jr., who did a little bit of everything: threes, assists, even some defense. But as has been the Dallas problem all season, they let the Spurs grind all the way back to within two despite being up 12 at one point. Lucky for Dallas, a Tim Hardaway Jr. dunk and five quick points from Jalen Brunson helped the Mavericks re-establish the lead down the stretch. However, a sloppy batch of play on both sides off the ball in the final 90 seconds allowed the Spurs to close the Dallas lead to one. The Mavericks led 59-58 after a half of basketball.

For the first portion of the third quarter, both team’s offenses were stuck in the mud, with the score tied at 67 after six minutes of action. Then San Antonio went on a 14-4 run, giving the Spurs a commanding 10 point lead. A late flourish sparked by Jalen Brunson helped eat into the lead in the final three minutes and the Mavericks trailed the Spurs 83-81.

The mixed bench unit lead Dallas back to the lead just a minute and a half into the fourth off a Boban Marjanovic jump hook. Yet the Spurs simply would not go away and took back the lead immediately on a Thad Young hook followed by a Keldon Johnson lay up. A pair of Boban buckets would give the Mavericks a one point lead again, which they eventually built into a three point lead following a few sloppy possessions where Dallas ended up with the ball at the right time. Following a Derrick White technical free throw and Dejounte Murray lay in tying things at 94 with five minutes remaining, a Jalen Brunson mid key jumper retook the lead for Dallas once again. Murray answered immediately but Brunson played hero again with an and-one bank shot jumper and free throw and then hit another jumper the next possession to give Dallas a five point lead with three minutes remaining.

Of course, the Spurs refused to die. San Antonio closed the lead to three twice, then down to one when the Mavericks botched a baseline out of bounds play forcing a half court Doncic shot attempt. Jalen Brunson rose to the occasion, hitting a baseline jumper off a Dwight Powell offensive rebound to give Dallas a 105-102 lead with 21 seconds left. The Mavericks barely won a free throw shooting contest to extend the game by the Spurs and hung on to win 109-108.

Now, some thoughts

Jalen Brunson continues to be the most consistent player for the Mavericks

It’s beyond just the 31 points and 10 rebounds, but Brunson feels like the only sure bet Dallas has night in and out. At some point I assume a team will remember he’s left handed and wants to go left or will make his way back left. Right now, he’s the one player I feel confident in no matter the part in the game.

With Luka Doncic still figuring out... something, it’s been nice to see Brunson’s move to the starters working out well.

Making the center rotation work

I suspect that Dallas fans fall into two camps: those that want to see Boban play a lot and those that understand why he can’t. Yet on a night when the Mavericks needed size, the gamble to play Boban extended minutes played a huge role in the win. He was a +17 in 15 minutes to go along with 15 points.

And Dallas needed every minute and point because with Dwight Powell being just one man (who also gives up a fair amount of size and strength most nights) and Willie Cauley-Stein having no drive to play hard (10 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, lots of lethargy), Boban came through big.

Wouldn’t have hated to see some Moses Brown minutes.

Is this fun?

The Mavericks are shooting 41.2% from the floor this season, good for 28th or 29th place depending on when you’re looking at the team stats. That’s giving these games a sense of grind, along with their 101 point per game average, which is also good for bottom five in the league.

Winning is fun, I’ll grant people that. It’s so much better to be 5-3 than say 2-6. And yet, this has been fairly frustrating to watch. Am I missing something? What are the big or little things you’re enjoying?

Here’s our lastest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.