DALLAS – It came down to one play and one shot on Wednesday night.

With the game tied and mere seconds left, the Los Angeles Lakers swung the ball cross-court and found Austin Reaves. His shot was true the moment it left his hand.

The result, after a 48-minute-plus effort, was a 107-104 loss for the Dallas Mavericks (14-14), who managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

“I’ve seen him before,” Jalen Brunson said of Reaves. “He’s a great player. He was able to make big shots.”

Losing the game on a last-second dagger 3-point jump shot hurts, but it wasn’t all bad. Yet, no moral victories exist in sports. Games are measured by wins and losses.

Still, Dallas ought to be proud of the effort it gave without Luka Doncic in the fold against a team that is star-studded with future Hall of Famers.

And a hero amidst the chaos was Brunson, who – for stretches at a time – looked like one of the best guards on a floor that featured LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Brunson scored 25 points and dished out nine assists. His offensive game came easy, as he scored on a smooth 11-18 from the floor and 2-4 from 3-point range.

But after the game, he was in no mood to talk positives. The only thing on his mind was the missed plays down the stretch that let his, and Dallas’, great game slip through the cracks.

“We had it in our hands, and we let it slip away,” Brunson said. “It was the little things, the attention to detail, that us as a team, we have to be better at.”

Brunson’s growing value

Dejected or not, Brunson proved his value against the Lakers. With James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis staring him down, he showcased why he’s going to get paid next offseason. And through his steady production, Brunson detailed why he deserves every penny of that expected payday.

As a starter in 10 games, Brunson is averaging 20.3 points per game and 6.8 assists. His game isn’t pretty, nor is it flashy, but it gets the job done.

He doesn’t ask for fanfare, media attention, or adulation. Instead, every day he works and stays ready — living by his mantra of the success being found in the work.

On Wednesday night, his work – again – paid off.

It didn’t come in a win, but one can assume that if Doncic played, and the Mavericks gave the same effort, the score would have been different.

There are no moral victories in sports. That’s a given. However, some nights you at least have to acknowledge a player’s great efforts.

“We just let one slip away,” Brunson said. “… We had it.”

Related Dallas Mavericks reading: 

“Dirk Nowitzki humbled by jersey retirement and NBA 75th selection.” 

“Dallas’ offensive punch returned, despite Doncic’s absence, in a win against Charlotte.” 

Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.