Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry entered Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz having combined for just 34 points in their last two games. But that cold spell by two of the Dallas Mavericks’ starters quickly turned into a blazing inferno for each player against the Jazz.
Hardaway was 11-of-15 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point land and tallied 27 points, while Curry converted eight of his 11 shots and added 4-of-6 buckets from downtown and poured in 22 points. The shooting spree by those two players enabled the Mavs to dig themselves out of a 22-point hole in the third quarter en route to upending the Jazz, 122-114.
Obviously, the shot-making by Hardaway and Curry will be critical as the Mavs enter the playoffs next week. So, to see those two veterans on target against the Jazz was a welcome sight for coach Rick Carlisle.
“You get into playoff basketball you’ve got to generate shots randomly, you have to generate it by trusting the pass and trusting your teammates,” Carlisle said. “The second half we did it, the first half was ugly. Real ugly.
“I’m glad both of those guys got into a rhythm offensively.”
The Mavs played without their top two scorers — Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis – and also without Dorian Finney-Smith, who rested his strained left hip. Curry saw their absence as a chance to get some more looks at the basket.
“There were more opportunity out there, obviously, with a lot of points missing tonight and certain guys sitting out,” Curry said. “It was an opportunity for myself and some other guys to get a rhythm, and I got a few more looks.
“So we had to take advantage of the game and work on some stuff, but also try to get that competitiveness back and try to get a win. Every game is leading up to the playoffs. You want to win the game, but it’s not just about winning and losing. It’s about trying to work yourself into as good a shape as possible to get ready for the first round.”
Like Curry, Hardaway admittedly has endured some up and down games in the bubble. He opened play in Orlando with 24 points against Houston, then went an abysmal 1-of-12 from the field against Phoenix. That was followed by 22 points against Sacramento, and eight points each against the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks before he erupted against the Jazz.
In the five games in Orlando before playing Utah, Hardaway was 19-of-58 from the field for 32.8 percent while averaging just 12.8 points. But he drilled a pair of 3-pointers that padded the Mavs’ lead against the Jazz to 116-109 with 1:59 remaining in the game.
“It’s great to just be able to get shots up,” Hardaway said. “Not only that, but I think just attacking the basket and getting myself going (early in the game) that way instead of settling a little bit. I think that really helped me out just to see the ball go in the basket.
“Of course, you know you’ve got your two All-Star guys that aren’t playing (in Doncic and Porzingis). So it’s always next man up, and you’ve got to be able to take the weight of those guys and push through it.”
Entering the game against Utah, Curry had only played in three contests in the bubble due to right leg soreness. Overall, he was just 7-of-22 from the field – 31.8 percent – and averaged only seven points in Orlando, but that slump was all but forgotten after the torrid shooting display against the Jazz.
Curry said the adjustments to playing without Doncic took some time getting used to.
“Everybody is a little bit more involved as far as getting the ball in their hands and trying to make plays with the ball,” Curry said. “Obviously, Luka has a big role in our offense making a lot of plays for the majority of the game.
“So it’s going to be different without him. We have to do it as a group. Tonight, you saw a lot of guys making plays, and like I say it’s a chance for us to get a rhythm and kind of work on some stuff while we’re missing 50-60 points.”
DONIC, KP, FINNEY-SMITH RESTED: Mavericks’ fan should have no qualms about Doncic, Porzingis and Finney-Smith sitting out against the Jazz.
Carlisle said the decision not to play three-fifths of his starting lineup against the Jazz hinged largely on the amount of minutes those players have played since the Mavs arrived in Orlando. Doncic averaged a whopping 40.2 minutes in the first five games in the bubble, and Porzingis and Finney-Smith are each averaging 36.2 minutes in the bubble.
The minutes piled up because the Mavs played three overtime games.
Also factoring into the situation is that the game against Utah served as the front end of the Mavs’ only back-to-back scenario in the bubble. The Mavs will play Portland in a national TNT game on Tuesday, then end the seeding portions of their regular season games on Thursday against Phoenix before the playoffs start on Aug. 17.
“This is our first cluster of back-to-back games, so managing that is also a part of it,” Carlisle said.
The Mavs went into the game against Utah in a battle with the Jazz for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. In the meantime, Portland is in a fierce battle with Memphis, San Antonio and Phoenix for the numbers eight and nine seeds.
Two of those four teams will face off for the play-in game(s) this weekend for the right to claim the No. 8 seed and meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
“You’re not supposed to rest your guys on national TV games, so that’s another factor that played into (resting Doncic and KP),” Carlisle said before Monday’s game. “It has nothing to do with the opponent or anything like that.
“We’re really in a head-to-head battle with Utah, so from that standpoint it wouldn’t make any sense to rest those guys in this particular game. But we’re looking at overall health long-term and short-term.”
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