DALLAS -- Because the Dallas Mavericks have become so utterly predictable offensively in the fourth quarter, these are the times when they could use a player like J.J. Barea.
Last year in the fourth quarter when the Mavericks leaned heavily on Dirk Nowitzki or Jason Terry for points, Barea was the player who stepped in and kept defenses off-balance with his ability to drill a 3-pointer, maneuver to the basket off the pick-n-roll, or spot a wide-open teammate.
But with Barea now playing in Minnesota, the Mavericks are basically getting the bulk of their fourth-quarter offense from Nowitzki and Terry. And that gets a little dicey, particularly when opposing teams already know who the Mavericks are going to turn to during key late-game offensive possessions.
"When you have a couple of key guys like Jet and Dirk, they're going to get a lot of attention," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our guys understand that other guys are going to have to be ready to step up and knock in shots when they're there."
The Mavericks hope they will be able to knock in shots at 8:30 tonight when they play Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against Oklahoma City at American Airlines Center. The Thunder leads the series 2-0 after winning both games at home.
In the opener, the Thunder limited Terry to only one shot attempt -- and no points -- in a fourth quarter that saw Nowitzki score 11 of the Mavericks' 25 points.
And in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Nowitzki and Terry combined for 15 of the Mavericks' 22 points.
Vince Carter had two field goals in the fourth quarter of Game 1, and no other Mavericks player other than Nowitzki or Terry had more than one field goal in the fourth quarter of either of the first two games.
In other words, the Mavericks have become so easy to defend in the fourth period because they've become so predictable.
But Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Delonte West and Carter are the likely candidates with the ability to step in and take some of the scoring load off Nowitzki and Terry.
Kidd said: "I think we've all got to step up -- not just Dirk and Jet --- but everybody else around who's on the floor with those guys because they are concentrating heavily on those two. So other guys got to make plays and put the ball in the basket."
Carter banked in a pressure-packed 9-footer in Game 2 that gave the Mavericks a 97-96 lead with 2:18 remaining. He believes he can be that third fourth-quarter scoring option who can keep defenders from swarming Nowitzki and Terry.
"I've never been afraid to take a tough shot," said Carter, who is 3 of 9 from the field with six fourth-quarter points in the opening two games. "I just want to be an outlet for this team and just remain in the game whether I'm making it or missing it."
Kidd, who is 1 of 4 from the field with five points in the two fourth quarters of the series, said that basketball is an inexact science and that players will come to the rescue and take some of the heat off Nowitzki and Terry.
"You're going to make some shots and you're going to miss some," Kidd said. "You've got to be confident when the ball comes in late (on the 24-second shot clock) and have the confidence that you're going to make the shot.
"There are no concerns here. It's just basketball. Keep it as simple as possible."
And, by any means necessary, find a way to keep some of the Thunder's fourth-quarter defensive pressure from blanketing Nowitzki and Terry.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760