DALLAS – If Harrison Barnes’ first two games are any indication, the Dallas Mavericks may have found themselves a valuable key young piece to build around for the future.
Barnes tallied a career-high 31 points during Friday night’s 106-98 loss to the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center. And it was the way he was scoring that probably was surprising to most Mavs’ fans.
Barnes scored on punishing drives, on solid long jumpers, on hotly-contested jumpers, and on dead-eye 3-point shots. On a night when the Mavs played without ailing superstar Dirk Nowitzki – he has a stomach illness -- Barnes picked them up on the offensive end and gave them an array of hope.
"I feel good,’’ said Barnes, who also five rebounds in 39 minutes. "I’m getting good shots.
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"In the preseason I was struggling shooting it, but they were shots that I felt I could knock down, and I’m still getting those looks. Now it’s just a matter of putting this all together.’’
In the first two games of the season, Barnes has scored a team-high 50 points on 21-of-37 shots, and is 5-of-10 from 3-point range. That includes burying a pressure-packed 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left to send Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers into overtime.
For now, it looks like that four-year, $94 million free agent contract the Mavs signed Barnes to this past summer is a steal.
"I expected Harrison to play extremely well and I think he has a chance to be a very special player, and I’ve felt that all along,’’ Carlisle said. "And I like the way he competed tonight.
"Tonight he put the ball in the basket, which was much needed with Dirk out. Some nights we’re going to need him more to guard a great player, but he’s still going to be a guy we depend on for production on offense.’’
Of course, Barnes would trade in his two solid games for a pair of wins. But at least the Mavs know they have another capable scorer to turn to whenever they need a key basket.
"We’ve had moments, but we haven’t quite put it together where we’re making baskets and getting stops,’’ Barnes said. "So I think that’s the biggest focus right now.’’
After Barnes played poorly in last spring’s NBA Finals and was not a factor when the United States captured the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio, some Mavs fans were scratching their head wondering if their favorite team had locked horns with a mediocre player. Now they know Barnes is capable of nailing key basket after key basket.
"I thought he played well,’’ Carlisle said. "He was aggressive, he made a lot of shots -- that was good.
"But we lost, and that’s the story. So let’s keep our eye on the ball here.’’