A slow start for the Dallas Mavericks was a cause for concern, but in the end, it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who had the last laugh.
Hardaway Jr.’s career night from behind the 3-point line spurred Dallas towards its 127-113 victory over the Miami Heat Tuesday night. He scored a breathtaking 36 points and made a captivating 10 3-pointers en route to a historic outing. To add, Hardaway Jr.’s exquisite shooting performance tied Wesley Matthews and George McCloud for the most 3-pointers made in a single game (10).
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) May 5, 2021
The best part of Hardaway Jr.’s night was that it came at a time when Dallas looked dead in the water. In the first quarter, Miami jumped out to a somewhat convincing 39-30 lead. It looked like another game Dallas would let slip from its grasp, and Trevor Ariza was doing his best to make sure of that. The veteran swingman scored 16 of his 18 total points in the first quarter.
So, when Dallas was faced with a dilemma (let this game slip away and potentially drop to the seven seed, or stay and fight back), Hardaway Jr. answered. In five minutes played in the second quarter, he scored a quick nine points. He followed that with an emphatic third quarter, where he scored 18 points and made four 3-pointers.
By the fourth quarter, his damage was done. He scored six more points just to add insult to injury on Miami. And the lead he helped build was enough for the Mavericks to rest Luka Doncic the entirety of the last frame. Hardaway Jr. has now scored 78 points in his last two starts. Read that again(!).
Consistency is Hardaway Jr.’s modus operandi this season. And the typically streaky shooter has found his groove at just the right time with seven games left to play. The battle for the five and six seed in the west continues to draw nerves, but if Hardaway Jr. is playing this well, there shouldn’t be too much concern for Dallas. Let’s get into some notes for Tuesday’s game.
1.) Hardaway Jr. had another huge night with family in the building. There is something special about playing in front of those you love. And for Hardaway Jr., it seems to give him offensive superpowers. His grandma was in the building, and he didn’t hold back regarding how important it was to play well in front of her.
“Just being around friends and family and having my grandma in the building. It’s very special,” Hardaway Jr. said. “I just wanted to go out here and put on a show.”
You can say he succeeded at putting on a great show.
2.) The rookie Josh Green was an integral piece in Dallas’ win. He played for 23 minutes, and he started the second half after a productive second quarter. Green was a plus 17 in box score plus-minus, and he collected three steals. He also scored four points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out three assists. His energy was paramount all game. And I dare to say it was the best game he’s played all season.
“The guy that changed the game was Josh Green,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said.
3.) There was a brief moment where it looked as though Ariza would torment Dallas again. He has a history of doing so. However, the Mavericks defense did a great job of keying in on him and forcing the ball out of his hands as the game wore on. There is something about Dallas that Ariza just loves. He averages 12.5 points per game against the Mavericks – two better than his career average. His 16 first-quarter points today also marked a season-high for points in a quarter.
Dallas winning against Miami held them firm at the No. 5 spot in the West, avoiding that dreaded play-in tournament at all costs. It turns out, Dallas winning the season series against the Los Angeles Lakers will play a huge factor in what happens down the stretch. The Mavs can’t afford any untimely losses now. And I doubt that Hardaway Jr. will let that happen on his watch. Next up for the Mavericks is the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. A game that will allow the Mavericks to gauge their standing amongst the NBA elite.
“We’re just we’re going day-to-day with what we need to do to prepare for each given game,” Carlisle said. “Players are aware of standings and all the machinations going on there. We’ve got to stay in the present, we’ve got to stay process-oriented and we’ve got to do the things that bring us success.”
Feature image via Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports.