There were blown leads, a big comeback, a four-point play, a game-tying 3-pointer, a game-winning 3-pointer, a final defensive stop, and somewhere in there, yes, a viral Muppet meme that nudged Spencer Dinwiddie to take the shot that made the whole maddening, exhilarating ride worth it.
“They had been telling me to drive,” said Dinwiddie, “but you know it was like the Kermit thing, where you got hoodie Kermit telling you, ‘nah, shoot the step back three.’ So I was like, man, all right, cool, let’s do it.”
That was how Dinwiddie, and maybe only Dinwiddie, could describe his decision — with the Brooklyn Nets down two in the final 10 seconds of overtime — to pass up a drive to the rim and opt for the 3-pointer that he turned into the game-winner in the Nets’ 120-119 win over the Detroit Pistons.
It was the bow on a 25-point night for Dinwiddie, all of it coming after halftime, including four 3-pointers in the final 8:05 of play at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime.
“What can I say about Spencer? He was phenomenal,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “I thought he struggled a bit in the first half, I thought his second half was great. Not just the 3-pointers, but him getting to the rim. His speed and size, he wreaks havoc on a defense.”
Up by 15 in the first quarter, the Nets went into halftime down six and spent most of the second half failing to make up much ground. They cut it to four in the third on — sure — a Dinwiddie 3-pointer, the first of his five. But they were down as many as nine in the fourth and still trailing by seven with the clock creeping up on three minutes to go when Dinwiddie dribbled around a Jarrett Allen screen on the left side, elevated to knock down a three, and drew a foul from the trailing Ish Smith.
The four-point play brought the Nets within 103-100, the first time they had been within a basket since late in the first half.
“Two possessions worth of points,” said Dinwiddie.
With Detroit up 105-101, Dinwiddie hit another three, then on the next possession fed Allen cutting to the rim for the three-point play that put the Nets in the lead for the first time in the second half.
A Blake Griffin three and two Reggie Jackson free throws had the Pistons up 110-107 when Allen Crabbe inbounded the ball for the Nets with 22.6 seconds to go in regulation. He went right to Dinwiddie, who caught it and turned high at the top of the key to drill the shot that tied the game and forced overtime.
“He was huge for us,” said Joe Harris. “Getting downhill, putting their bigs in difficult positions where they had to pick their poison. They’re either going to have to stick with him or defend the roll, and Spencer was just making the right decision most of the evening, and then he hit some really tough shots there down the stretch too.”
Dinwiddie ended up shooting 5-of-9 from 3-point range and 8-of-15 overall, and adding four assists.
He came through on a night the Nets needed it, after three straight losses, and delivered the way he had in a string of crunch-time performances last season. There was nothing new about what Dinwiddie showed against the Pistons.
“When I step on the floor every night, in between those lines for the 20 or 30 or 48 minutes or however long, I believe I’m the best player on the floor,” said Dinwiddie. “So, I carry that with me. That’s the type of chip on my shoulder that I have. That’s the type of mentality I have. And then when I step off, I’m just me. You know what I mean? I feel like that’s the approach you have to have. When I shot the shot, I didn’t think nothing else except I was going to make it.”