We interrupt this Lukacious lovefest to bring you an important message about one of the other Mavericks who had a bust-out game on Wednesday that was every bit as significant as what Luka Doncic accomplished.
Well, almost as significant. Sort of.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had been shooting 29.5 percent from 3-point range through the first 13 games of the season. This was troubling to many because shooting 3-pointers is what Hardaway does.
He’d been a career 34.4 percent shooter from beyond the arc until he arrived in Dallas.
The end of last season could be excused because of his leg injury. But when he started out off-target this season, fans grumbled. He had shot 3-for-21 from deep in the four games before Wednesday.
So when he came up big against Golden State with 4-for-4 shooting from 3-point range (and 6-of-7 overall), it was an affirmation to Hardaway and everybody else that his shot was, indeed, still working.
“It’ll all come around,” Hardaway said after his 20-point night. “My shot isn’t broken.
“I’m very passionate and very persistent in my shooting. I know it’s not broken. It’s just not falling.”
Or, at least, it wasn’t falling. That changed against the Warriors, who truly did not show up in the Mavericks’ 142-94 blowout win.
But Golden State’s lack of defense isn’t the point in this situation. With Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis on the floor much of the time when Hardaway is playing, he’s going to get open shots. That’s a fact of life.
Defenses have too many other holes to plug.
So Hardaway is going to get open shots.
The question is whether he can make them at a rate sufficient to establish himself as a reliable sidekick to Doncic and Porzingis. Games like Wednesday suggest yes. But in viewing the 9-5 Mavericks as they try to cap a four-game home stand in perfect fashion Friday night against Cleveland, it appears more and more likely that their third prong in the offensive pecking order is going to be a fluid situation.
But the numbers on Wednesday made it clear that, even if he’s coming off the bench, Hardaway has the best chance of being the Mavericks’ third cog. He’s the only player other than J.J. Barea (who’s played just one game) averaging in double figures (10.9) in points besides Doncic and Porzingis.
And he’s got the backing of his coach.
“He’s playing well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s just had a run of tough shooting nights. But he continues to be, I believe, our best raw plus-minus guy on the season, which is pretty phenomenal for a guy playing (mostly) off the bench.
“And he’s been a leader of our second unit. So, I don’t want to mess with it too much. The guy’s really playing a great overall game of basketball. But I’d always like to get him some better shots, easier shots.”
And as for coming off the bench or starting?
“It doesn’t matter,” Hardaway said. “I’m here to win ballgames.”
To that end, Hardaway has worked vigilantly to get his shot back in fully functional success mode.
“Just a little extra work, here and there, see the ball go in at practice, stay after practice and get in before,” Hardaway said. “And just concentrate on the mechanics and make sure everything is right. When game time comes, try to get that first easy one and don’t force anything.”
Hardaway is as human as anybody. He has times when his confidence wavers. Days like Wednesday help restore some of it.
It also helped when his father, Tim Hardaway Sr., stopped by for Wednesday’s game. Getting that family spirit always helps, Junior said.
“It’s getting better,” he said of his confidence level. “I just wanted to see a couple go (shots) in. Most importantly, the coaching staff and teammates just kept me level-headed and made sure I was all right and could perform.”
The bottom line is that Hardaway is mostly coming off the bench and playing less than 23 minutes per game. But he is the Mavericks’ third-best scoring option.
And if Wednesday represents the start of an uptick in his shooting, it will result in nothing but positive production for the Mavericks.
Briefly: The Mavericks used Thursday as a rest day in advance of the home stand finale Friday night (7:30 p.m. tip) and a Sunday afternoon game at Houston (2:30 p.m. tip) . . . The hope is that Seth Curry (illness, ankle) will be able to return to action Friday. If he does, Carlisle said he will return to his spot in the starting lineup.