The Spurs were about to complete an improbable 13-point comeback in Game 7 against the Nuggets on Saturday, but a big mistake in the defensive end left them without a shot in the final possession of the game. Ultimately, this mistake pushed them to the playoffs.
San Antonio lost, 90-86, with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Basic mathematics says that this is a game of two possessions. The Spurs needed to commit intentional fouls, send the Nuggets to the foul line and extend the game if they wanted a chance to return.
But even though Gregg Popovich told his team to commit a foul, he did not. The Spurs let Jamal Murray record the clock for a second, then raise a three on the bell. San Antonio regained the rebound with less than three seconds left in the game clock. The Spurs did not even get shot at the end of the game.
It was as if they accepted their fate before the game was over.
San Antonio is usually praised for being one of the best-trained teams in the NBA, and deservedly so: Popovich has been revered as one of the best minds in all of basketball. But this defense defensive brain was inexcusable. This was J. R. Smith forgetting how long he was on the shot clock once again. Except that this time it was not a single player. It was a whole Spurs team that should have realized that there was not enough time on the clock to retrieve the ball.
Even after recovering the ball, they would have needed to convert a four-point play. It was not happening They should have committed faults immediately with 26 seconds still on the clock.
This will bite the Spurs for a while. They had the opportunity to extend the game on the free throw line. On the other hand, they did not even get another possession. San Antonio was eliminated and they did not do themselves any favors when leaving.