J.J. Barea doesn’t have much basketball left in his 5-foot-10, 35-year-old frame.
Heck, most initially thought he was finished after tearing his Achilles’ tendon last season.
After not playing in the first six games this Dallas Mavericks season, Barea looked all but finished.
Maybe he is.
But for just more than two minutes in the second quarter Wednesday, Barea emerged as a key player in the Mavs’ narrow 107-106 victory over the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Center.
Barea scored 11 straight points for the Mavs, including nine on perfect shooting beyond the 3-point arc, to break them out of a slumber after trailing by nine with 3:20 to go in the first half.
“I missed it, man,” Barea said. “It’s so much fun to play basketball here.”
“Barea definitely gave us a big spark,” Carlisle said. “Got the crowd into it. Got our team into it. Pretty amazing for a guy who has his credentials and has been sitting down for six straight games not playing, not complaining.
“He stepped out there and made an impact just by playing with heart and enthusiasm. He was certainly a key part of it.”
The Magic had three possessions in the final minute to take the lead, but failed on each try. The Mavs, meanwhile, didn’t do anything down the stretch to give them any breathing room.
But they won for the second time in four home games and improved to 5-2 overall despite a dicey first half and a sluggish game from Kristaps Porzingis, who called his 10-point, 4-for-14 game “awful.”
Doncic struggled early, too, but scored 12 points in a third quarter in which he assisted on three more buckets to help give the Mavs a seven-point lead.
The Magic erased that, though, in less than five minutes — all with Doncic on the bench.
He returned with the game tied at 91 and scored the next five points. The Magic hung around to take a 100-98 lead with 4:25 remaining.
Dwight Powell, though, hit two free throws after a Mavs timeout, and Dorian Finney-Smith hit his only shot, a 3-pointer on the next position to put the Mavs up 103-100.
Those were the first five points in a quick 9-2 run, but the Magic were within one at 107-106 with 41 seconds to play.
Orlando, though, got off only one shot on their final three possessions. Aaron Gordon was hit for an offensive foul on the first, and then hit for another with 7.7 seconds left after a Magic steal that gave them a chance for the lead.
Seth Curry was fouled, but he missed both free throws to give the Magic one last crack at the win.
Nikoila Vucevic had a clean look at a 3-point, but missed as time expired.
“We hung in well enough to win,” Carlisle said.
Barea was the only Mavs player to reach double-digits in the first half. Doncic managed only six points on 2-for-7 shooting, including an all-glass 3-point miss, and Porzingis scored just five on 2-for-5 shooting.
The Mavs’ bench outscored the starters 29-25 in the first half and contributed 49 points overall. Maxi Kleber scored 14 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 13 points and Justin Jackson matched Barea with 11 points.
But Barea’s points might have been the biggest of the game.
“It was just amazing,” Doncic said. “He’s a vet on this team and a leader. He’s been working hard. He’s been playing all his life and he hadn’t had a chance this season. I think he won the game for us.”