MIAMI – Before Friday night’s game at Miami, Charlie Villanueva had scored only 13 points in just 42 minutes over the previous nine games for the Dallas Mavericks.
That includes four games where he didn’t play at all due to a coach’s decision.
But there’s one thing that’s been consistent about Villanueva. The Mavs always know that, given the opportunity, he’s just a couple of shots away from getting a hot hand.
And that’s what happened Friday against the Miami Heat as Villanueva popped in a game-high 20 points and provided the sizzle which helped the Mavs to a 93-72 triumph over the Heat at American Airlines Arena.
"Charlie was great at both ends,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "He played some great defense on (Chris) Bosh, got some rebounds, he had a big block at one point.
"He’s a guy that the guys in the locker room really love as a guy and they love him as a player. No one’s happier for him than the rest of our team.’’
Villanueva explained that even when the minutes aren’t coming his way, that doesn’t change his pre-game routine or changes how hard he works.
"I’m a professional, I’ve just got to keep grinding and just wait for my opportunity,’’ Villanueva said. ‘It’s a long season and I just stay sharp, I work on my conditioning, keep shooting and just wait for my opportunity.
"Today was an opportunity that I definitely took advantage of.’’
Villanueva tallied 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. He was the ringleader of an incredible 37-2 run by the Mavs, who trailed 60-51 early in the third period before building an 88-62 lead late in the game.
In all, Villaneuva converted 7-of-15 shots, including 6-of-11 from behind the 3-point line. And with each shot that found its mark, the players on the Mavs’ bench at the time was cheering Villanueva on
"Charlie shoots the ball great whenever he gets an opportunity,’’ said Tyson Chandler, who finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. "We watch him all the time in practice, and he knocks down shot after shot, so it’s definitely expected.
‘He’s a gamer. He’s not just a practice player, so when his name is called he’s ready to go.’’
In snapping a four-game losing streak, the Mavs needed that huge lift from Villanueva after they missed 21 of their first 25 shots and fell behind 15-13 after the first quarter and 45-33 at the half.
"It was looking a little ugly, man, but guys hung in there,’’ Villanueva said. "We knew that our defense was going to win us this game and it dictated our offense.
"Guys made shots, played unselfish basketball. That was just a beautiful, beautiful second half and I’m so glad we got the win.’’
A win that probably wouldn’t have occurred without the contributions form Villanueva.
"He works extremely hard and he’s kept himself ready,’’ Carlisle said. "He proved how valuable he is tonight.’’