J.J. Barea sure knows how to make a grand entrance.
One day after his daughter was born in Plano, Barea hopped on owner Mark Cuban’s private jet, flew to Detroit on Friday and fought off fatigue en route to assisting the Dallas Mavericks to a 98-89 triumph over the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The victory was the third in a row for the Mavs and helped them climb back to .500 (38-38) and retain possession of the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference.
The thing we got here in this locker room is special. I get here and everybody was just happy for me and talking about my daughter.
J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks
Barea slept some on the plane and went directly to the arena, where he arrived at 4:45 p.m. Then, he proceeded to make 13 of 23 shots and scored 29 points.
It was definitely the backcourt lift needed by the Mavs, who were without guards Deron Williams (sports hernia) and Raymond Felton (strained groin).
“The thing we got here in this locker room is special,” Barea said. “I get here and everybody was just happy for me and talking about my daughter.
“Last night it wasn’t that bad, but I took a nap on the flight and then I took a 15-minute nap when I got here. The first quarter I tried to just pace myself a little bit and I made some mid-range shots, and I think that was huge for me for the rest of the game.”
Barea scored 19 his points in the first half when the Mavs used a 17-0 run to lead 51-36. But the Pistons (40-36) battled back to tie the game at 58-58 on a Marcus Morris 3-pointer with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter.
However, the Mavs used a 13-3 run, fueled by a pair of 3-pointers from Wesley Mathews to carry a 71-61 lead into the fourth quarter. That’s when Barea struck again, as he notched another 10 points.
“He was tremendous and we’re all very happy for him,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Barea. “The baby daughter [Paulina Barea Ortiz] was born beautiful, and he’s got to be really happy, and I think it was probably a little inspiration from seeing his daughter come into the world, so it’s a great day.”
It’s a combination of offensive tempo and defensive intensity. The guys are buying into a style of play which puts us in a better position to defend.
Coach Rick Carlisle on the Mavericks’ improved defensive play
Certainly it was a great day for the Mavs, who have held three consecutive opponents under 90 points. That’s the first time that’s happened since January 2012 when the Mavs limited six straight foes to under 90 points.
“It’s a combination of offensive tempo and defensive intensity,” Carlisle said. “The guys are buying into a style of play which puts us in a better position to defend.
“Going forward it’s a field game. Sometimes we’ve got to go a little faster, sometimes we’ve got to tempo it down a little bit, but we’ve got a smart veteran team and these guys all want to win.”
Part of the reasons the Mavs beat the Pistons is they used Zaza Pachulia and Salah Mejri to harass Andre Drummond into a 5-of-15 performance from the field. The Mavs also intentionally fouled Drummond, a poor free throw shooter who was just 2 of 10 from the line.
“Obviously he’s the best player on that team,” Pachulia said of Drummond said. “I think, starting with me and Salah, we did a really good job.”
Overall, Pachulia finished with six points, 11 rebounds and three assists, and Mejri added six points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
In addition, Dirk Nowitzki fought back from two sub-par shooting performances to score 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting. It was a jumper by Nowitzki that gave the Mavs a lead (60-58) they would never relinquish.
But Detroit continued to fight as a pair of free throws drew the Pistons within 90-85. However, Matthews (17 points) made a 3-pointer and Devin Harris added two free throws and the Mavs were up 95-85 with 2:05 left.
“It was a good win for us, especially since guys are dropping like flies,” Nowitzki said. “I’m glad J.J. flew in today. He was big. The little guy was big for us.”
Mavericks at Timberwolves
2:30 p.m. Sunday, FSSW