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Closer Look at Mavs' Bizarre First Half vs. Nuggets; Late-Game Execution

The Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets experienced one of the more strange ends halftimes in NBA history. Here's everything to know.

The Dallas Mavericks fell short, 98-97, against the shorthanded Denver Nuggets on Sunday. Along the way, there was a combination of head-scratching and officiating sequences at the end of both halves.  

When the two teams entered the tunnel, Doncic made a step-back 3-pointer before halftime that initially counted with 2.0 seconds left to play, giving the Mavericks a 59-52 lead. It was later ruled after an NBA review that Doncic had stepped out, but both teams had already left the court — causing the officials to put 2.0 seconds on the clock to make the two teams play the end of the first half after returning to the floor. 

"Show me the rules," Doncic said of his buzzer-beating 3-pointer being taken off. "That’s the first time I’ve seen that. I didn’t think I was out of bounds, so I don’t know.”

Doncic doesn't believe that his foot was even out-of-bounds as the NBA deemed him to be. After seeing the video of the play, he felt that his heel didn't touch the sideline. A player is allowed to have their heel hover over the line without it being ruled out as long as the heel doesn't touch. 

“I saw some videos," Doncic said of his foot being called out-of-bounds. "It doesn’t seem like it even touched the line and my heel was up, so I don’t know.”

The Nuggets gained possession of the ball with 2.0 seconds left with the only option being to throw up a heave beyond half-court. The team let Doncic's Slovenian National Team teammate, Vlatko Cancar, take the shot and he converted on a 54-foot buzzer-beater. The result was a six-point swing that caused the Mavs going from being up 56-55 instead of 56-52 to start the third quarter. 

“Well, I’ll tell you man – you’re going to laugh at this… We call him Half-Court Vlatko," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. "That’s why I put him in. When the refs told us that Luka [Doncic]’s three didn’t count and they were going to put 0:02 on the clock, I said ‘well, Vlatko’s got to go in, we’re going to give him a chance to shoot it.’ 

"The guy is uncanny with his ability to make those shots, and for him to do it in a game setting like tonight, I really felt that changed the game. It’s a 6-point swing because they took away Luka’s three, we make a three, and then I felt that third quarter was our best quarter. We held them to 18 points, 33% from the field. Vlatko, that’s a Bud Light Player of the Game, in my opinion.”

The decision from the referees to resume play of the second quarter after the halftime break was resulted in rather unique circumstances. 

“No, I mean, that’s the first that I’ve seen," Kidd said of the way the second half ended. "Halftime, and then you come back to finish the second quarter and then start the third. That was the first time, but the league is trying to get all of the calls right, and that was the call.”

The Mavs felt that by having a six-point swing, it proved to be a big momentum shift in how the game unfolded. 

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“It’s difficult, you know? We went from +7 to [+1]. It’s a big momentum [swing] but we can’t say that it decided the game,” Doncic said of the momentum swing caused by the play.

Despite how the end of the first half transpired, the Mavs still had more than enough opportunity to win down the stretch. Dallas even led 76-66 with 1:54 remaining in the third quarter. In the final period, the Mavs allowed Bones Hyland to score 13 of his 29 points while Doncic went scoreless in 5:17. 

There was a play with 1:33 left in regulation that ended in a turnover and a set of made free throws for the Nuggets after Dinwiddie was fouled but it wasn't called. Not only that, Dinwiddie injured his shoulder and had to leave the game after. It was a four-point swing as a result. 

“Yeah, I only saw it on the screen," Bertans said of when Dinwiddie got hurt. "Your guess is going to be as good as mine ... Unfortunately, that’s another possible four-point swing and we could have scored on that possession. But they get two free throws … That’s basketball.”

The Mavs had two possessions facing a one-point deficit with 55.2 seconds left to play in regulation — ending with a missed 3-pointer from Dorian Finney-Smith (35.8 seconds left) and a 35-foot shot from Doncic at the buzzer. 

“Yeah, with the six seconds and his back to the basket, I didn’t think we had enough time to do something, so I took the timeout," Kidd said of of taking multiple timeouts at the end of the fourth quarter. "Unfortunately, I didn’t think he dribbled the ball so that’s why I had to take a second one to advance it. Just understanding that situation took place where I thought it was kind of a loose ball, bad shot rebound and we were going to be able to advance it, but we had to burn our second timeout with that.”

Much of the focus is on the result of the Mavs' final possession, and for good reason. Dallas used two timeouts on the final possession but ended up with a near half-court shot with the game on the line. The rationale behind the double timeout call was that Doncic had his back turned after rebounding the miss, making Kidd feel there wasn't enough time to make a play otherwise. 

“Look, he’s capable of making them from anywhere, so he felt that that was the best opportunity to get off a clean look, so I trust him,” Kidd said of trusting Doncic to take the final shot.

The Mavs lost despite receiving a career-high 23 points from Josh Green with six made 3s in addition to Davis Bertans shooting 4-5 from deep with a total of 15 points. Dallas received more made 3-pointers from Green and Bertans with 10 than the Nuggets (nine) had as a team. 

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