It was one of Brooklyn’s ugliest games in recent memory. The teams went back and forth, often finding themselves at an offensive impasse. It was a game where the Nets and Pelicans had just 61 and 64-points, respectively, after three quarters. The score of the game made it feel like its setting was 1989, not 2019; shots were just not going down.
Repulsive play aside, offense picked up for both squads in the fourth quarter, and the Nets put themselves in a position to win. With 25.2 seconds to play, the game was in Spencer Dinwiddie ... and Brooklyn’s collective grasp.
Despite being checked by New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday for most of the game, a one-time All-Star and All-NBA caliber defender that Dinwiddie later called the best on-ball hound in the league, Dinwiddie still managed to produce. In fact, he was one of the only Nets to find even a morsel of success against the Pelicans’ stingy defense.
It was clear that Dinwiddie would likely take the last shot — and all eyes were on him. Dinwiddie opened up the possession on the left side of the court. With the ball in his hands, he called Joe Harris over for a screen, realizing that with similar-sized players, he’d likely get a switch. That was exactly what happened, Dinwiddie could now attack New Orleans’ Josh Hart, who’s no defensive slouch, but not the challenge of going up against “the best on-ball defender in the league” in Holiday.
With less than a three second difference between the shot and game clock and time running down, Dinwiddie went one-on-one against Hart.
Crossover. Crossover. Hard rhythm dribble right. 29-foot fadeaway heave.
No good, in fact an uncalled airball, sending Nets Twitter into shambles.
What an atrocious isolation possession by Spencer Dinwiddie with a chance to win the game.— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) December 18, 2019
Spencer Dinwiddie has been awesome, but that is some kinda bad last shot with the clock running out.— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) December 18, 2019
The Nets would go on to win in overtime, 108-101, with Dinwiddie playing a huge role As he continues his quest for an All-Star spot, Dinwiddie poured home 31 points and handed out seven assists, again, against the best on-ball defender in basketball.
Even with the win, the question remained: what was Dinwiddie thinking exactly on the final possession of regulation? It lingered in everyone’s mind following the game.
Thanks to The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer for asking the question post game, Dinwiddie let us in on his mindset with the clock running down and the game on the line...
Spencer Dinwiddie’s highly cerebral reasoning behind his long three at end of regulation.— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) December 18, 2019
W/ their ability to get out in transition, he didn’t want Nets to collapse inside going for the OREB after a drive, leaving time for NOLA to get a fastbreak winner.pic.twitter.com/3046drmUjL https://t.co/YgLnIUMK2U
“We were trying to get a switch and then we probably should’ve went pick-and-roll. It was a little bit late,” Dinwiddie said, “But what I was looking at, we had about a two-second differential. Knowing New Orleans and how fast they get out and how they like to contest, leak out, and throw the ball long, I didn’t want to collapse everybody on our team crashing and it’s like the last shot, but really cause I went with let’s say five, there’s seven seconds left on the clock, I miss it, they throw it long, you know sprint, maybe a foul, anything tricky.”
Conservative, yet savvy move in a tie-game by the always in-tune Dinwiddie.
Dinwiddie added, “So I said, ‘Okay, I know Josh (Hart).’ Josh is a pretty overzealous defender. If it leaves my hand with two or one on the shot clock, then there’s only two seconds left. The only thing left if it hits the rim and bounces up in the air is for Jarrett (Allen) to tip it in or for them to tip it or launch it full court. But nothing good could come of it from their end.”
Aside from his decision, Dinwiddie had a gripe with the officiating on the final play, continuing his long-running conflict with the basketball zebras:
“... (Hart) ended up sitting on my lap by the time the shot had fired, so like I’m still confused as to how that worked. The game should’ve been over.”
It should have been called a foul. The shot also should have been ruled an airball, giving New Orleans the chance to win the game with 2.7 seconds to play. So I guess we’ll call it even?
Dinwiddie concluded, “That was the whole thought process, it was all about making sure there was no other shot, either we were going to win or we were going to overtime, but there was no tricky stuff that was going to happen— or fluke stuff — that was going to lead to a loss.”
Dinwiddie’s prudent decision-making and astute awareness of the time and score paid off as the Nets easily handled New Orleans in overtime, securing their 15th win of the season.