Spencer Dinwiddie came to life in Game 6. Despite posting inefficient shooting numbers, which Dinwiddie called out himself, he was a key player in helping the Dallas Mavericks come back against the Utah Jazz and win their first playoff series since 2011.
Dinwiddie scored 19 points off the bench, shooting a tidy 7-12 on field goals and 4-7 from deep. His buckets in the third quarter helped give Dallas the upper hand as they built a lead and later held on for a 98-96 win. However, all of Dinwiddie’s efforts could have been for not if the final play of the game ended differently.
With four seconds remaining, Utah had the ball. Royce O’Neal inbounded the ball, tossing it across the court to Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic was Dinwiddie’s defensive assignment. A hard screen from Jordan Clarkson meant that Dinwiddie would have a lot of ground to cover if he wanted to challenge the final shot. He did what he could.
“I was scared. Bogi can shoot,” Dinwiddie said. “I spent a year with Bogi in Brooklyn. I got great respect for his game. He’s a very good shooter. The play they ran obviously got me and [Reggie] Bullock to collide, got Bogi the space he needed. That was just a mad dash hoping to contest or make him dribble or second think it. But I mean, it was a good look. I was scared.”
Bogdanovic missed as his shot struck iron and bounced off the rim. While many of his teammates cheered, Dinwiddie felt something else in the moment.
“Relief, for sure!” Dinwiddie said. “Some of the bench was celebrating and stuff and I think if you look at my face, I’m like, ‘Thank you. Thank you.’ I didn’t want to be in that picture of him hitting the shot and I’m sitting there like, ‘Ah dang.’”
He didn’t end up on the cover of sports pages in Dallas and Salt Lake City as the latest spokesperson for “the agony of defeat” this morning. But that didn’t stop at least one of his teammates from giving him grief for the play in the locker room after the game.
“We just watched the last play because we’re just trying to learn from it,” Dorian Finney-Smith said. “They shouldn’t get an open shot at the end of the game.”
It turns out there was more to it than just learning. Theo Pinson orchestrated the whole thing. He had ulterior motives and wanted to criticize Dinwiddie’s defensive effort on the play. The two are close friends and Pinson was just trying to get under Dinwiddie’s skin.
“I think he was trying to say that I messed up, which–by the way, just for the cameras and everything–I did not,” Dinwiddie said. “There was contact, there was a screen, and I did my job to help run him off the line or make him take an extra dribble, etc. so it wasn’t a wide-open shot. I did my job. Sometimes it’s a make or miss league.”
Had the play turned out differently, Pinson wouldn’t have seized the opportunity to rib his friend. The emotions in the locker room would have been quite different as the team was heading back to Dallas facing a Game 7.
Instead, Dinwiddie and the Mavericks have a date with the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. While the Suns will be the favorites in the series, it’s hard to discount the Mavericks’ chances. This is a team that played through adversity all season and has a deep sense of camaraderie that has helped it overcome the odds repeatedly.
“The main thing I sense from this team, which is super unique, is the togetherness,” Dinwiddie said. “I feel like this team really genuinely likes each other. It kind of makes a ‘the sky is the limit’ type of scenario because everyone is willing to sacrifice. You look down the line, you genuinely like the guy next to you so you end up caring about what goes on.”
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