The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz 120-116 Tuesday night in Dallas. The Mavericks came out struggling to make shots and to defend. Then they inserted Tim Hardaway Jr. and they got better at both. Hardaway received a ton of criticism early in the season, including from myself, but he has been doing a solid Johnny Storm impression recently. (Johnny Storm is the Human Torch)
He continued that impression today, and the Mavericks would not have won without him. Kyrie Irving continued to show why he is the most talented player Luka Doncic has ever played with, and Doncic still chipped in despite some rough stretches. Here are the stats to know:
24: Points scored by Hardaway
Hardaway was 8-of-12 from the field including 7-of-9 from three-point range. About the only thing that slowed him down was tripping over the opposing coach following one of his threes. Hardaway is a boom or bust player, but he is booming right now. It is not his responsibility to contain himself when he isn’t shooting well. If he is on the court he needs to take shots and his willingness to do so at a very high volume is important on a team that creates this many open looks.
The Mavericks outscored the Jazz by 17 in Hardaway’s 33 minutes which means they were outscored by 13 in the 15 minutes he sat. This roster is not capable of playing solid defense. That means the path to victory lies in outscoring people and Hardaway is one of the Mavericks five best players when it comes to that goal. He should continue to come off the bench but get heavy minutes.
33: Points scored by Kyrie Irving
Irving is a fantastic offensive player. His ability to be a true co-lead with Doncic rather than a subordinate opens up so many possibilities. He was an extremely efficient 10-of-18 from the floor. He made all ten of his free throws, including the game-clinching ones late. That is also a breath of fresh air. The Mavericks have a lot of work to do, especially defensively, but the ceiling just feels different with Irving here.
26: Number of minutes Maxi Kleber played
Kleber did not do anything special in the box score. He had five points, seven rebounds and a steal. He made one of his four three-point attempts. But the mere fact that he played is important. Kleber is the third most important Maverick. He gives the Mavericks their best chance to simply be a bad defense, rather than a historically bad defense. That might not seem like much, but with an offense this good, a bad defense is going to win a lot of games. A historically bad defense is not.
Overall, this was a much-needed win, and that is the most important thing.
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