It was coming together like a sports movie. The Dallas Mavericks, nearing the end of a historic regular-season collapse, had waived the white flag and benched their core players. The backups were supposed to lose and secure their top-10 protected first-round pick. Instead, those backups fought.
The Mavericks led at halftime. They held that lead after three quarters. Even when the Bulls stormed back in the fourth, the Mavericks never gave in. With 15 seconds left in the game, the Mavericks rebounded a missed free throw by Derrick Jones Jr. needing a 3-pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime. And then… well… this happened.
In a single possession, the Mavericks had a 3-pointer blocked, had another hit the backboard, and had a third airball. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the first time in the past 10 seasons a team failed to hit the rim on three 3-point attempts inside the final 15 seconds of a game.
In fairness, you might argue that very few teams actually get the chance to even take three 3-pointers in the final 15 seconds of a game. That’s a legitimate question, but remember, those are exactly the sort of shots the Mavericks are built to make. They sacrificed their defense and depth for the sake of an offense that was supposed to be unstoppable in the final seconds of close games.
But Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving weren’t on the floor. It, therefore, felt ironic that it was ultimately McKinley Wright and A.J. Lawson taking those 3-pointers. Things have gone so badly for the Mavericks over the past two months that they have been reduced to taking and missing the exact shots they were designed to miss with their postseason fate hanging in the balance. The loss eliminated the Mavericks from playoff contention, and it couldn’t have come in more fitting fashion.