Spurs’ backups nearly steal a victory

DALLAS — As soon as the ball left his hand, had a plan.

It is one he lifted from one of the most painful chapters of Spurs history, from a player who made a similar shot facing similar odds nearly eight years ago.

Even before Green pulled a — swishing a turnaround jumper that appeared to give the Spurs a breathtaking buzzer-beating victory over Dallas — he had mapped his escape from the .

“I was going to run out of the gym, just like Derek did,” said Green. “I said, ‘Guys, let’s go. Let’s get the heck out of here.’

“Nobody wanted to follow my lead.”

That was a stark contrast to what had happened for the previous quarter-plus, when the Spurs rode their young bench players to the brink of an improbable comeback victory against the defending NBA champs before falling in overtime 101-100.

Officials reviewed, then disallowed Green’s shot, launched with 0.5 seconds left — more time than Fisher had for his 0.4 dagger for the in the 2004 playoffs. The game went to OT, where Dallas — ahead by 18 points in the third — dodged more bullets.

“The one thing I’m not going to allow to happen is to have our team feel bad about a win,” Dallas coach said. “Wins are hard to get.”

With his starters stumbling into a 67-49 hole late in the third quarter, Spurs coach took the unorthodox step of benching them all.

Aside from 1.1 seconds logged by Kawhi Leonard in OT, no Spurs starter appeared after the 2:44 mark of the third.

Dallas (13-8) led 67-53 at that point, but behind a barrage of bench 3-pointers — three from and two apiece from Green, and — the Spurs clawed back.

Popovich said he never contemplated putting his starters back in the game, even as the deficit shrank.

“That group was playing great,” Popovich said. “Why would I?”

Implausibly, a game that seemed headed toward a blowout quickly took on the tenor of the most memorable Spurs-Mavericks playoff clashes.

Albeit, instead of , and battling and , it was Neal, Anderson and Green.

Neal ended with 19 points, though he missed a free throw that could have tied the game with 12.6 seconds left in OT. Green scored 12 points, while Anderson added eight points, three assists and five rebounds.

In all, the Spurs’ reserves accounted for the team’s final 51 points and were largely responsible for the 24-6 run that had the Spurs (12-9) up nine with 5:33 to go in the fourth.

“Those guys got us back out of a hole,” said Duncan, who had 12 points in 23 minutes. “You ride with what’s going good. It was the right call.”

With the Spurs ahead by four with 37.8 seconds left, Dallas’ answered with a drive. Then Terry — who finished with 34 points — took the ball coast-to-coast after a Neal miss to drill a game-tying 12-footer with 0.5 seconds left.

That set the stage for Green to reprise Fisher, with one notable exception.

“His goes in the books,” Green said. “Mine doesn’t.”

Referees originally ruled Green’s shot good, then disallowed it after replays showed the ball still on his fingertips as the horn blared. Afterward, Duncan joked he wished that same crew had been around for Fisher’s shot in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals.

“I don’t know if the clock started early, or Danny’s release is slower, or what,” Duncan said.

Still, even with Green going anti-Fisher, the Spurs had a chance to win in OT. They were ahead 98-95 on Green’s drive with 1:18 left but again could not close.

In the end, it came down to the Spurs behind by one, the ball again in Green’s hands. A discombobulated final play led Green to try a desperation 3-pointer that was no good.

So when Green finally left the floor at the American Airlines Center, he did not run. He walked.

“I guess it was just too good to be true,” he said.


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