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The 3-point shots hit by Mavericks bench players, ranked by unlikelihood.

Maxi’s big night turned into EVERYONES big night

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After a game two in which Maxi Kleber got so hot from beyond the arc that he was incandescent, I thought, “Wow, what a win! But we can’t count on Maxi to stay that impossibly hot. Someone’s going to have to step up.”

You see, where that line of thinking led me astray was that I allowed myself to doubt for even a single moment. Not only did Maxi Kleber’s hot shooting carry over into Game 3 win over Utah... it was infectious. Fellow bench players Josh Green and Davis Bertans took a page out of Kleber’s book and used their time on the court to absolutely light up Utah in the first half. Together, the bench trio of Kleber, Green, and Bertans shot 11/17 from three - a big factor in giving the Mavericks a big enough cushion to absorb the second-half push from the Jazz.

It’s a truly astounding turn of events for three players who, until very recently, we struggling mightily to see their shots fall. And then, just like that, they all started falling at once. Let’s take a look back at those buckets, ranked by how unlikely they were to occur.

3. Most likely - Josh Green’s first playoff three-pointer

Josh Green’s three pointer was his first of this series and, in fact, his playoff career. Green’s first post-season appearance was brief and uneventful, contributing four stat-less minutes in a 25-point loss to the Clippers. This season has been something of a re-birth for Green. Not only has he earned regular minutes in Jason Kidd’s rotation, he’s worked himself into a decent shooter, knocking down better than 40% of his three-pointers post-All-Star break.

That’s what makes this cashed three inevitable. It’s true, Green looked shaky in games 1 and 2, and went a combined 1-9 from the field and 0-6 from distance. However, we know Josh Green can hit a three. Josh Green knows Josh Green can hit a three. Given enough minutes, it was only a matter of time. It would have been good enough to just go 1-3, if only to get that monkey off his back, but Green went above and beyond. Not only did his first three drop, he then proceeded to shoot 3-5 for the game, all in the first half.

2. Should have suspected - David Bertans’ 4-point play

When Bertans landed in Dallas, it was as damaged goods. During his time in San Antonio, he was among the best sharpshooters in the league. That reputation had begun to tarnish a bit after an injury saw him struggling to find his stroke in Washington.

Still, the man’s a shooter. And as Mavs’ fans poured over his highlight reels, took in that perfect shooting form, and saw his quickdraw release, MFFL heads nodded collectively. “We can fix him.”

Lo and behold, since arriving in Dallas his 3pt% rose from .319 up to .360 – much closer to his career average of .398. In games 1 and 2, Bertans saw decent minutes, but never got the shot to click, going just 1-4 combined. But, just like Peja Stojaković in 2011, it felt like, eventually, there was going to be a “Bertans Game.” And if not for his fellow bench mates getting equally hot, this might have checked the box for such an occasion. He took 7 shots, all threes, and hit 4. All featured that instantaneous release from his highlight shots. It’s as if the sensation of a basketball touching his hand causes his mind to go blank like a CIA trigger word until all he knows how to do is let it fly. It’s subconscious. He’s the “Manchurian Candidate” of shooting the three-ball as soon as the leather touches his fingertips.

This bucket was his first of the night and it was all he needed to get his confidence going. His back-to-back threes with under a minute to go in the first were a pile-on, and he added one more in the second half for good measure.

1. Actually unthinkable - Maxi’s bailout bomb

In his career, Maxi could always be counted on to hit some open shots. Last season, in fact, he shot a career-high 41% on 4.2 threes per game. That’s what made this season’s slump so inexplicable. His .325 season average doesn’t even fully capture the depths to which Kleber’s shot sank. It completely abandoned him. In contrast to Josh Green, Maxi entered the postseason shooting an unfathomable .188 from three since the All-Star break. He made only nine threes in the entire month of March. From that perspective, his 2-5 night from the arc in game one was already a miracle. Still, no one could have predicted what he’d come out and do in game two. His 8/11 night is the stuff of legend.

Can legends have sequels? Maxi Kleber seems to think so. Because he came out in game three and hit a three in the first quarter that gave Dallas a 14-11 lead they’d never relinquish.

When Maxi cashed his first three-point attempt, the Jazz players must’ve been repeating a self-soothing mantra in their heads. “Don’t overreact to a 19% shooter. Maxi Kleber can’t beat us twice. Don’t overreact to a 19% shooter. Maxi Kleber can’t beat us twice.” When he hit his second three, less than a minute later, it probably shattered some worldviews in Utah about how basketball is supposed to work.

Just look at that shot. It’s not a Maxi Kleber shot. For Bertans and Green, they got shots on good looks created by solid team ball movement. This Maxi Kleber shot is a bailout 28-foot bomb from the top of the arc, not some wide open, Luka-created, corner three.

Not only that, it was more than a heat check; it was an omen. Until Kleber got it going, Dallas was 0-4 from deep and had only scored eight points through nearly 7 minutes of game time. Maxi’s perfect 2-2, (especially this insane long-range heat-seeking missile,) was the spark that ignited the entirety of the Dallas bench. He ended up shooting 4-5 from deep, 6-7 from the floor, and leading all bench players with 17 points.

It just can’t be stated enough how insane a shooting streak this is for a guy who literally got Space Jammed for close to two solid months. For him to shake all that off and come into the postseason shooting 66% from deep, all while still fulfilling his role as a hugely versatile big defender, is simply mind-boggling and I can’t get enough of it.

Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.