Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Pelicans down by one. 15 seconds left. Jrue Holiday holds the ball at the top waiting for the play to develop. Anthony Davis begs for the ball in the right high post with Tim Duncan right on his back. He receives it. He faces up, fakes left, and drives right. Tim Duncan, still a great defender, sticks with him and cuts him off at the baseline. The rest of the Spurs stick to their men; Davis is a great passer out of the post and Popovich has specifically stated: no doubles.
Davis remains unfazed. Slowly, deliberately, he works his way toward his sweet spot on the right block. The senior Duncan tries to stop the advance, but cannot match up with Davis’ raw power. The clock now reads 3 seconds. Davis takes a few dribbles in place, then picks the ball up. He gives a slight shoulder fake to the left, and then, in a flash, unleashes his patented sweeping righty hook. Duncan, slightly out of position after the fake, is too far away to truly contest.
Time seems to stand still. All eyes except for two are staring at the ball in flight. It careens off the now red-bordered backboard, the angle seemingly too low, too harsh. But Davis has practiced this shot. Every movement perfectly coordinated. The ball drops cleanly through the net. The clock reads 0.0.
Anthony Davis is already walking up the court. He didn’t need to see the shot go in. The roar of the crowd is entirely expected. He turns around as his teammates prepare to mob him. Tim Duncan has the ball in his hands. They make eye contact. A moment of understanding passes between them. He sees Duncan say the words, though he cannot hear them over the tumult in the arena.