Doncic is shipwrecked before DeRozan

The Slovenian tied the game with 19 seconds to go, but DeRozan hit an incredible winning shot. The fight for the playoffs is tightening.


When DeMar DeRozan made the jump shot with five hundredths of a second remaining, Gregg Popovich didn't react. It is normal; In itself, the NBA coach has a marked absence of fuss and displays of emotions when compared to his European counterpart. But in addition, this is coupled with the fact that old Popovich (he turned 72 in January) is cured of fright. He has seen it all, he has lived it all and he does not believe in fate. He came to the NBA in 1988 as an assistant coach and rose to the Spurs' offices before firing Bob Hill and taking over as head coach back in the 1996-97 season. At the time, Michael Jordan was only wearing four champion rings, Kobe Bryant had just landed in the best league in the world, and Democrat Bill Clinton was the president of the United States. Since then, unshakable Pop has seen a horde of players pass by as he created a five-ring dynasty based on draft heists and a timeless, storied star like Tim Duncan. And, with the withdrawal of the power forward and the rest of his great men (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili ...) he has continued to occupy the bench, immovable. Although today's fight is very different from yesterday's.

Popovich knows that he will not win more rings (except for a capital surprise) and that, most likely, this will be his second consecutive year without a playoffs after not missing the appointment in 22 seasons, a record for North American sport (shared with the Nationals / 76ers, between 1950 and 1971). But of course, he no longer has anything to prove. The Spurs are in the fight for the playoffs in a way that is as unexpected as it is deserved, they have a roster made up of players who would not perform as well if they were anywhere else, they give problems to almost everyone and they are colliding head-on with the reality of their own. quality in a second part of the season in which everyone tries to react. They were fifth in the Western Conference in January; now, they occupy the ninth position, but have saved a bullet after beating the Mavericks (direct rivals) and are one game away from the Grizzlies (eighth) and 3.5 from Luka Doncic's team. Behind them, the Warriors are on their heels and the Pelicans do not give up, so they will have to settle for the play-in, although they can stay out of it. And it is complicated, in this state of urgency that has been installed in the middle part of the Western Conference, to imagine them in the playoffs. But of course, with them you never know.

The Texan duel was tied. There were 12 lead changes on the scoreboard and 10 draws, but the Spurs took advantage in the end, although they could not make it happen. The Mavericks came back, emboldened by a Kristaps Porzingis who was, this time, the leader, with 31 points and 15 rebounds. Luka Doncic was not far behind, to whom Rick Carlisle (another genius, by the way) ordered to go to the post to avoid the help of the Spurs on the outside, which forced him to shoot 3-pointers constantly and without much success: 2 of 8 at the end, 1 out of 5 in the entire second half. In fact, the Slovenian had the chance to shoot three, but decided to penetrate and score a layup that put the tie on the scoreboard (117-117) with 19 seconds to go. There DeRozan emerged: the Spurs tried a direct block to stay in front of Doncic, but Dorian Finney-Smith corrected and returned to defend the Texan star, who did not care: step back and suspended basket with five hundredths that the Mavs tried to take advantage of a last, distant and desperate triple by Doncic. Which, obviously, did not enter.

Things get tighter in the West. Luka Doncic finished with 29 points and 7 assists, while Tim Hardaway was missing (0 of 5 shooting) and only Josh Richardson was equal to the two stars of the Mavs. And in the Spurs, two players above the rest: Dejounte Murray, who did everything (as always) on both sides of the court and finished with 25 + 5 + 5 and four steals. And DeMar DeRozan, of course, who finished with 33 points (13 of 25 shooting and only one 3-point attempt, for a change), 5 rebounds, 8 assists and the winning shot. The Spurs, by the way, shot 21 triples ... half that of the Mavericks (42), a sign that Gregg Popovich is adapting to the new times without giving up fundamental basketball, the one he likes the most. The coach hurries his days in the NBA while looking askance at the United States team at the Olympics. An adventure that can be one of the last and that, however it ends, will not tarnish its incredible legend. At this point, Pop has nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and almost nothing to gain. The end is approaching slowly and gradually, slowly but surely. And it will come, sooner or later, as always happens. Does not matter. After all, Gregg Popovich will leave when it's his turn. And he will do it with a clear conscience. That's for sure.

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