Pressed into the starting lineup Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets because of hamstring injuries to two of his teammates, J.J. Barea did what he does best.
Barea finished the Dallas Mavericks’ 119-118 overtime victory against the Nets with a season-high 32 points and 11 assists. It was Barea’s first double-double of the season and just the 14th of his career.
It also was the type of workmanlike effort the Mavs needed since they were without point guards Deron Williams (strained left hamstring) and Devin Harris (strained right hamstring).
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“J.J. was awesome,” Harris said. “He came out with a lot of energy.
“We haven’t been great in the shot-making department, but I thought he got off to a great start, and was taking good shots, and he was making good decisions. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he’s capable of doing that on a nightly basis.”
The game against the Nets was Barea’s first start this season. And he relished the moment, converting 13 of 20 shots, including 5-of-7 from 3-point territory.
J.J. was awesome. He came out with a lot of energy. ... Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he’s capable of doing that on a nightly basis.
Mavericks point guard Devin Harris on teammate J.J. Barea
“I’m not going to lie, it’s always fun to come straight out of warmups straight into the game,” said Barea, who started again late Saturday against the Chicago Bulls and led the Mavericks with 23 points through three quarters and was 7 of 7 on 3-pointers. “It’s something different, and I try to take advantage of it and just try to help my team, especially in the early minutes as much as I can.”
There are some subtle nuances when he starts — as opposed to coming off the bench — that Barea knows he can take advantage of.
“You can take your time [as a starter] — you don’t have to be in a hurry to be that aggressive,” Barea said. “You let the game come to you.”
Whatever the differences are, the Mavs reaped the benefits that their 10-year veteran brought to the court.
I’m not going to lie, it’s always fun to come straight out of warmups straight into the game.
Barea on starting instead of coming off the bench
“We need the depth,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got four point guards in their 30s, so there’s going to be somebody banged up some of the time.
“We’ve got to have guys ready to step up into either more minutes or a starting role like Barea did [Wednesday] night, and from there we’ve got to play hard and play our game.”
Small forward Chandler Parsons marveled at how Barea — listed generously at 6-feet — was able to carve up the Nets.
“He played unbelievable,” Parsons said. “He got us off to a hot start, hitting shots, setting up guys, pushing the ball in transition and creating mismatches.
“He’s a tough little guy to guard, and when he’s playing like that there’s not a lot of guys that can stop him.”
14 Career double-doubles for Barea after recording 32 points and 11 assists in Wednesday’s victory over the Nets.
Starting Barea against the Nets conjured memories of the 2011 NBA Finals when the Mavs played the Miami Heat. The Mavs trailed the best-of-seven series 2-1 and Barea was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4 in place of DeShawn Stevenson.
From there, the Mavs won the ensuing three games and their only championship series. Thus, Barea joined Butch Lee — he helped the Los Angeles Lakers capture the 1980 title — in becoming just the second Puerto Rican to win an NBA title.
Barea’s career game against the Nets was even more impressive because he’s still recovering from the six games he missed from Nov. 28-Dec. 7 due to a sprained right ankle.
“It’s still a process,” Barea said of his ankle. “It’s going to take, I think, probably the whole season.
“It’s still swollen, but it feels a lot better. But as long as I’m able to move and have my quickness, I’ll be fine.”