After injury-riddled season, J.J. Barea came to Mavs’ rescue against Nets

Postgame: J.J. Barea

Mavs G J.J. Barea weighs in on Sunday's win over Brooklyn.

DALLAS — Although he has admittedly been hampered by a nagging left calf injury throughout the 2016-17 season, veteran point guard J.J. Barea showed how important he is to the Dallas Mavericks’ success during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 111-104 victory in Brooklyn.

Scoring 11 of his 20 points off the bench during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, Barea put the Mavericks (30-39) on his back late to boost the team to a much-needed victory. The 32-year-old lead guard also had a stretch of nine straight points for the team during the period, finishing with a perfect 5-for-5 shooting in the quarter as the Mavs held off the Nets late. And after battling his way back to the court from a lingering calf injury twice this season, Barea admitted that contributing to Sunday’s win was personally rewarding.

“I was being aggressive,” Barea modestly said after his scoring explosion during Sunday’s victory. “I knew [Nets center Brook Lopez] was staying down and I couldn’t get the lobs to (Nerlens) Noel, so I was looking for my midrange and it was working. I stayed aggressive on those, and [Noel] was setting some good screens on me. And I was able to knock it down.

“You know, it’s been a tough year for myself, but I’ve stayed with it. I love to play this game, especially in the fourth quarter of a game like that, so it’s been a lot of practice. I’ve got a good group of coaches that believe in me and teammates, so it makes it a lot easier.”

On the season, Barea has averaged 11.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists an outing, appearing in just 24 games while battling his way through a left calf strain. He’s also shot 42 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range, giving the Mavericks a reliable offensive threat off the bench when he’s been available.

Barea has also seen a steady increase in production and playing time during the last six outings after missing 20 straight games from Jan. 22 to March 7. But after his breakout performance against the Nets, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says the goal is simply to keep Barea healthy for the remainder of the season.

“Well, he’s experienced, and even when he’s been out he’s kept himself ready by staying into it mentally,” Carlisle said while praising Barea’s play this season. “He’s kept his conditioning good, and he’s a guy that loves to play. He loves the game, and my hope is we can get him through these last 14 games healthy. That’s a really big thing. Get him to this summer where he can have a full summer to get ready for next year.”

Barea’s love of the big moment was on full display during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win as the Nets tried to rally from an 18-point deficit in front of their hometown fans. It also came to the delight of his teammates, who praised the veteran floor general’s aggressiveness following the win.

After the Nets charged within one on Spencer Dinwiddie’s driving score, Barea answered with a timely jumper at the other end to make the margin four, 96-92, with 4:46 remaining. Barea answered another score by Lopez to keep the lead at four and Nets guard Randy Foye’s basket later in the period, draining a midrange jumper at the other end to keep Brooklyn at bay. Barea then delivered a dagger to officially close the door on the Nets by drilling a three-pointer to put the Mavericks up 103-96 with just 2:15 remaining on the game clock. But after seeing the undersized guard also knock down clutch shots as his teammate with the Mavs’ 2011 NBA championship team, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki says he wasn’t surprised by Barea’s performance down the stretch on Sunday.

“They were big shots,” Nowitzki explained. “You know, that’s what he does in the pick-and-roll. He’s great in pick-and-rolls, and they came off there. He made a couple from midrange, and they went under on that last one. He banged in a big three, and that kind of iced it for us there. You know, he’s made big plays for this franchise for a long, long time.”

“I mean, that was fully-healthy J.J., and that was great to see,” Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes added. “I mean, he was just coming off and knocking down shots. I mean, Dirk was hot, Wes (Matthews) was hot, but to have him pretty much carry us in that fourth quarter was big.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Tuesday, hosting the Golden State Warriors. Golden State leads the season series 2-0. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. That game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

There’s no injuries to report at this time.