J.J. Barea has been down this road before.
Just when the Dallas Mavericks were on the verge of playoff extinction, he was called upon to start a playoff game
When the Mavs trailed the Miami Heat 2-1 in the 2011 NBA Finals, coach Rick Carlisle decided to replace starting shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson with Barea in Game 4 of that best-of-seven series.
The move worked like a charm as the Mavs won the last three games of that series and their only NBA title.
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Some four years later under similar dire circumstances, Barea was back in the Mavs’ starting lineup Sunday after they trailed their best-of-seven series to the Houston Rockets 3-0.
And again, the nine-year veteran showed he still has the magic touch as registered his first playoff career double-double — 17 points, 13 assists — as the Mavs outfought the Rockets and won Game 4 121-109.
Was this a déjà vu moment for Barea?
“It’s different — 2011 was a special year,” he said. “This year we’ve got to find a little bit more. I hope it works the same way. I hope we win 15 more like that. In a row.”
Starting in place of the injured Raymond Felton, who started in place of the exiled Rajon Rondo, Barea was constantly in attack mode. He kept the Rockets off-balance with his quickness, his vision to find the open teammate and his tenacity.
“I thought J.J. was wheeling around, running in the paint, getting good looks,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “I’ve never seen him with 13 assists in one game, so that was phenomenal.
“He was attacking and making stuff happen for us, and that’s what we need him to do.”
Barea averaged 7.5 points and 3.4 assists in 17.7 minutes per game. But he played 36 effective minutes, and may be asked to duplicate those numbers when the Mavs and Rockets meet in Game 5 of this series at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Toyota Center.
Carlisle has no problems running up Barea’s minutes the way they were Sunday.
“He started probably seven or eight games when Rondo was hurt in mid-season,” Carlisle said. “He’s started before in playoff games.
“He started quite a few times my first couple of years here. And so he’s used to these types of roles in a lot of situations, and when he plays [in international games] he doesn’t come out ever.”
Barea played for the Mavs from 2006-2011, and then signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2011 until returning to Dallas this season.
This is his sixth season playing with Nowitzki and his second with center Tyson Chandler, two of the cornerstones of the Mavs’ franchise.
Sunday night he was in the backcourt with Monta Ellis, who scored 31 points as the Mavs kept the Rockets back on their collective heels and gave them something to think about going into Tuesday night’s game.
Barea wasn’t lacking confidence as he played like he’s been the starting point guard for years.
“My confidence is there because I know Coach believes in me, know Dirk, Tyson, they got my back because we’ve been through all the battles together,” Barea said. “Monta and I are having a good relationship out there on the court, so that’s working, so hopefully we can keep that going.”
Barea, 4-0 as a starter in the playoffs, also wants to keep that streak alive. And he has the formula for that plan of attack.
“I’m trying to push it every time,” Barea said. “I’m trying to be aggressive, and my teammates and the people around me are following me.
“I’m just trying to attack and do my job, and if I create problems for their defense, I think everybody else plays a lot looser and more open.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760